Let your sword's soul speak

-- Hartlight --

David Hardy

Album genres:
Symphonic metal
Prog metal
Album artists:
Noémie Marie Vocals / lyrics
Adrien Djouadou Guitar, Music, Backing Vocals, Bass, Duduk, Progra
Adrien Guingal Guitar
Pierre d'Astora Drums

Review written by David "Orcish Shredder" Hardy.

Thanks to Metal Message we've got here a little known French band called Hartlight who invites us to check out this album titled "As above, so below." An album made in a symphonic prog style. Well, okay, there are a lot of bands who try this and either succeed or fail, but what about Hartlight? Is their "As above, so below" debut album of theirs a succes or not?

Track by track: 

01 "as above, so below" is a superb opener, a very good choice of first track, it sets the tone, it's clearly what's needed and it's successful, you don't need much more to understand where they want to take us, even if some of the Arabic parts are borderline thematic. If I had to qualify it, I'd say the intro is a bit long, but then again, the track is over 6 minutes long too!

02 "that which stagnates is a liar": top except ... the solo part around 4:00 which is ... very questionable in its composition and which, for me, is not on a par with the rest of the track (melodic and constructed). Fortunately, the reprise with that magnificent voice avoids stopping the song at that point. Even if the ending is very 70s-80s movie end credits :D

03 "the land of the star": Top, at times I thought I heard notes coming out of nowhere, so high and beautifully placed were they (undoubtedly a little short, but given the tempo ... difficult to place a round or a white) This bodes well for the rest of the album.

04 "bound to eternity": A masterpiece! Although the melodic construction is totally in the classical style, it's perfectly mastered and really brings that classical music side to metal in the best possible way. You can feel the academic musical culture behind it. One small downside: at 3:08, I would have redone the vocal take, and the syncopated part at the end (around minute 6) is totally inappropriate and ill-timed, as it's unnecessary and rather haphazard. Otherwise ... I'm a fan!

05 "Let the fangs bite": A good filler, with no particular strong points or weak points, a little wearying but not unlistenable. It's worth noting that the breaks, bridges and solos are good. But does this save the track? No. It's good, but it doesn't lift the album (or sink it, either).

06 "The garden in the heart": So The track that, how can I put it? ... First of all, starting with the end: I really liked this title, I find it unique and particularly interesting in all its aspects. So don't put words in my mouth, it's a title I really put on the pedestal in many ways. But let's break it down a little. It's the first track to feature Adrien Djouadou as a singer, and let's be clear, he's got his place as a singer, as you can clearly hear in the first part of the track, which leans more towards a form of pop metal that suits Adrien's voice very well. And then, Noémie, too, adapts and goes for a more suitable vocal that allows both to exist and give each other the place they deserve. And that's just fine.

Up to 2:25 everything's fine, up to 3 minutes it's fine, but after that... Noémie eats up her man in terms of breadth and power, she brings more to the table than he does, and this is all the more noticeable in the slow passage from the 4th minute onwards. Adrien lacks the depth and depth that give the performance its imbalance. Mind you, I'm not saying that Adrien sings badly or isn't good in this track, but... his sweetheart gives him a challenge that puts him in difficulty... women's fault again! Revolution! ;)

07 "and nature unfolds one again": Although very academic, this is a pleasant piece with Nordic accents, and the solo around minute 4 is very pleasing.

08 "all life begins in the dark": The most beautiful solo part of the album is found here at the 6-minute mark, with a slight adagio feel around the 7-minute mark. My regret is the wording of the last word of this last song, "dark" ... which I would have preferred to have held, especially as she's capable of it! Largely capable! But otherwise, a track you can ONLY love!

Oh baby!

Okay, now that we've had a look around, what can we say? Is it good? Is it promising? I'd like to say that for me, the mayonnaise is taking! It's not perfect yet, but all the elements are in place to make this a top-notch band if they don't fall into certain shortcomings. Let me explain. You can smell the academic side of things, which is a good thing in itself, especially for this style of metal! Who could accuse an artist of having both theory and practice? However, there are some "facilities" heard in the work of some of the great masters, as well as some slightly outdated (but still useful) "compositional tricks" that only the sharpest ears will recognize. So yes, you can/should use them, but don't rely on them too much either!

I've noticed with great pleasure, and I strongly encourage this risk-taking, that "The garden in the heart" is something they need to work on in order to come up with tracks that also allow them to offer those little different pieces. And they have the ability to do that. But I think they still need to find the right balance. But it's very encouraging. As you might have guessed, my favorite track is 4 "Bound to eternity." It's not without its little flaws, we agree, but it clearly is a pure delight. And I think they agree with me, since it's one of the promo singles!

One of the things I have to say in the negative, and I'm sorry to say it, but it's the console work. It's pretty clean, yes, but it gives no priority, no dynamism, takes no bias, doesn't give that little extra that the composition, the playing, or the singing deserve. In short, it's a soulless pile-up. It's a pity, because it would take this album to the next level, and I think they richly deserve it.

Conclusion and notation: 

For me, Hartlight's "As above, so below" is a real discovery. I'm truly surprised by their rare symphonic prog metal qualities, I was almost carried away. This is a band that really deserves our attention, and one that I'd be happy to see and hear again on a future album. I sincerely hope to see them back with an album in which they've drawn the right conclusions from the mistakes of this one and moved forward in their own style and strengths.

An 8.7 for this opus which I really, really liked, but which has its faults (post prod) and which prevents it from getting that extra 0.8.