Concrete Ravings - reviewed


REFLECTIONS OF DARKNESS (uk)


Grading:  8/10


LES FLEURS DU MAL, meaning ‘The Flowers of Evil’ in English, is a volume of verse by beloved-of-Goths French poet Charles Baudelaire. With death, decadence and eroticism as its themes, it’s the perfect name for any band who describe their sound as Rock Noir. And so two Swedes, delightfully named Axel and August Grim (possibly not their real names) release an album, ‘Concrete Ravings’ under the LES FLEURS DU MAL moniker. Formed in 2009, this is their first full-length release and follows two well received singles.

It doesn’t mess about. A melancholic fragment of poetry introduces ‘A Remorseful Day’ and makes it perfectly clear on which side of the day this record will be residing. The song itself is an exhilarating adrenalin rush, hurtling along with busy guitars and strong, deep vocals. There’s a shift in modern Gothic right now, where everyone seems to have finally stopped trying to sound like either THE SISTERS OF MERCY or THE FILEDS OF THE NEPHILIM, and this lot perfectly encapsulate this, a vein also currently tapped by exciting new UK band RED SUN REVIVAL. ‘Idolatry’ has everything going on at once, excellent guitar work, some furious percussion, and a change of pace in the chorus that makes the verses all the more vibrant. A bit of synth plinking about in there too, even finding time to name-drop ‘The Catcher In The Rye’, really the Grim brothers can sit back and be mightily smug about this one. It’s Goth, boys, but not as we know it.

Despite the terrible title, ‘Concrete Ravings’ starts off brooding and expectant and soon works itself up into a sweat. It’s a real dance-floor winner when it gets going, “let the revelries commence” gently prodding those lazing in the shadows into the lights and smoke of a 2am club-night. It will make an excellent single, showcasing pretty much everything the band are about. A change of mood and pace with ‘Celebrity Gala’, there’s a prominent bass weaving its way around the lush vocals. A synth mid-section adds to the grandness and melancholy, patiently laying itself out as ‘Disintegration’ era THE CURE, which is surely no bad thing. ‘The Storm’, despite an encouraging start, is somewhat bland, but ‘Stink’ that follows it, more than makes amends. Eighties percussion and power-pop dynamics propel this gem into a brilliantly catchy chorus, and at just over three minutes, it sticks to the plot and does the job very nicely.

‘The Knife In My Back’, wisely included here, was an earlier single and helped cause a stir when released. Importantly, as a past glory, it’s not the best song on ‘Concrete Ravings’, it takes rather too long to get to the punched “The knife in my back was you” line, but it’s a solid enough sweep of minimal gothic guitar plucking, urgent beats and bleakly delivered lyrics. Which leaves ‘Substanceless Abuse’ to round things off. Grave-deep vocals whisper and purr over a scratchy backdrop, eventually none-more-black keyboards sweeping in. It’s impossibly dark, and oozes a bizarre mixture of acute sadness, absolute horror, and a nasty, creeping sense of menace. It’s one of the best genuinely-Gothic songs I have heard in years. And as it plummets defiantly downwards towards a sinister and unforgettable ending, there’s the real sense that this is something truly special that will soundtrack a number of favourite nightmares for years to come.

LES FLEURS DU MAL, then, succeed admirably in shaking the Goth-Rock foundations, while never deviating too far from the well-worn path. That in itself is a genuine skill. And despite a few moments where the ideas seemed to have temporarily dried up, this is a bold and imaginative offering that should see the band rapidly gaining the credit they most definitely deserve.


Stephen Kennedy



Original review



ELECTROZINE (germany)


Grading:  5/6


Those who felt personally adressed by the mini-format releases from the brothers Grim, must not hesitate to purchase the recently available first full length release. "Concrete ravings" is a work full of small and large goth-rock anthems that usually, without much resistance, goes in to your ears. On a fine, but straightforward foundation of synthetic drum machine sounds and synth-inserts, beautifully sparkling guitar melodies are presented and also the nasal vocals fits perfectly into the overall picture. As a reference, you could try out the early works of the Sisters (especially "First & Last & Always"), or The Mission, but also the unfortunately almost completely unnoticed Diabolique by the Swedish painter and musician Kristian Wahlin are a good comparison. Due to the consistently high quality and its absolute suppleness the eleven songs has certainly and quickly got me in a spin. A pleasant, nostalgic trip for almost any occasion!


Torsten Pape



Full review in german



AMBOSS-MAG (germany)


Grading:  Good!


"Concrete ravings" is the new work of the Swedish musician Axel Grim, who with his previous works already reaped great reviews. The sonic cosmos, created for us by Axel in collaboration with his brother August Grim extends far beyond the edges of the normal box of Gothic. It was mainly the fusion with the 80s New Wave, which gives it this album a very special charm.


Once again the brothers Grim manages to provide their album with a wonderful musical aura. Regardless whether the tracks are somewhat faster, as the opener "A Remorseful Day", or thoughtful sounding like the quiet "Celebrity Gala", that special note of LES FLEURS DU MAL is always present. The deep and haunting voice is terrific again and seems almost destined for greater things. The guitars buzz in the best Goth Rock manner, wonderfully wistful melodies which make the atmosphere appear almost three-dimensional.


As a film noir fan the music comes across like the musical side of that art form because the sounds are made for those typical reckless scenes in dark and rainy streets. This is particularly striking in the slower pieces that might be the most intense of all. But the classic gothic rock numbers are also an outstanding success.


Overall, again a strong work of  these Swedes and definitely worthwhile for every friend  of darker guitar sounds and authentic musical darkness.


Michi



Full review in german



THIS IS GOTHIC ROCK (finland)


Concrete Ravings is one of the most awaited debut albums of the new decade due to, let's say, success of Les Fleurs Du Mal's singles (Idolatry - The Knife in my Back) and acceptance and good response from gothic rock/post punk fans out there. Concrete Ravings is an album which I can say is more than complete but far away from being complex, because Les Fleurs Du Mal music is very digestable from the first listening. As I said before Les Fleurs Du Mal is one of those bands that has the ingredient of gothic rock anthem maker, and without doubt Concrete Ravings will be one of the most outstanding albums of the year and of the decade. It won't take much time before Concrete Ravings will be considered a classic gothic rock album. For me there's two kinds of Les Dleurs Du Mal – the one that makes dancable tracks to burn the dancefloor, like "A Remorseful Day", "Idolatry – In Vain", "Concrete Ravings", the summer 2013 goth hit "Nothing", "Strigoi System" (finally the studio version), "Idolatry – In Pain", "The Storm", "Stink", "The Knife in my Back" , and the one that makes completely sad and gloomy songs with some kind of grey atmosphere, like "Celebrity Gala" and "Substanceless Abuse" which is very dark and sterille . Don't miss the opportunity to get one of the best gothic rock albums I have heard in a long time. Les Fleurs Du Mal is a band that has their own sound and personality. Absolutely a must-have item in your collection. 


Oskar Terramortis



Full review



THIS IS GOTHIC ROCK (spain) #2


Finally!

For too many people, this is one of the most awaited releases in the Gothic Rock scene of today. Les Fleurs Du Mal took by assault (literally) to the Gothic Rock scene of the New Millennium; with JUST ONE SONG: “The knife in my back” This song is traditional Gothic Rock with a unique and refreshing approach; and that is what was needed to re-start the fire of the true Gothic Rock in The New Millennium. And we were very happy, because in 2011 we listened to those new carriers of the torch: The Third Wave Of Gothic Rock. Regular listeners of This Is Gothic Rock and Necromanteion (like me), put the spotlight in this band. The song has the feeling of a representative tune of the Goth Rock; indeed we were listening to a new classic. And people began to be very enthusiastic with this new and promising proposal. And I have good news: The full length album is here. And in my opinion, it fills all of the expectations that I had regarding to the first album by Les Fleurs Du Mal. Press play, and after some intro, it accelerates from 0 to100 in one second with “A remorseful day”. And it’s such a great start because it’s Gothic Rock at its finest; with great energy and elegance. The energy is provided by a really strong rhythm section; and the elegance comes with the refined guitar work. The voice is truly unique, and the sound of Les Fleurs Du Mal is unmistakable.”Idolatry-In vain” is the new single; and it has everything to equal to “The knife in my back”. Definitely, this weapon of choice has been quite an asserted selection.


“Concrete Ravings” has an atmospheric start that creates expectation, the level of intensity rises and it develops into a mid-tempo, but quite solid track with substance. This song is finely constructed.”Nothing” is another piece of contagious Gothic Rock: It’s very dynamic with driving rhythm; it surrounds you and makes you move. And here’s nothing about gloominess here: He’s happy as he could be and nothing’s wrong with him! “Strigoi System (uncompromised)”   is a high quality track, pretty well balanced. It’s mid tempo but sounds loud, it has really a really good dose of energy. “Celebrity Gala” is pretty melodic, introspective, and it’s very emotive. “Idolatry - In pain” is like a spin off from “Idolatry - In vain”. Remember when Goth bands from the past use to make the “Reprise” or ”Version” of one of their songs? This is like that; but at the end of the day, this track is really good too. “The Storm” and “Stink” are quite energetic and they maintain the quality standard. And then…here’s the song that started it all: “The knife in my back” This one has to be here for sure; this track is truly representative for the Third Wave of Gothic Rock. ”Substanceless abuse” closes this record; and this song is really dark, dense and introspective. Les Fleurs Du Mal executes the traditional Gothic Rock with real talent and a personality of its own. You will find here a very well defined style and   great songs. Very remarkable album, a must have for Die Hard Gothic Rock Fans.


Daniel Olvera



Full review



VIRUS G (spain)


Les Fleurs Du Mal's long-awaited debut album is finally out. After two promising maxi-singles, "The Knife In My Back" (2012) and"Idolatry" (2013), the Swedish duo returns with their first full-length recording: "Concrete Ravings". Throughout the eleven tracks included, the qualities that they pointed out in the advanced releases has been confirmed. Not only that but Les Fleurs Du Mal has ironed out their recognizable virtues, resulting in a sound that is slightly more advanced, complex and mature than that of their previous work. But let's go into detail about what is offered in this album.


The album opener, "A Remorseful Day", begins with a poignant and touching recitation. /.../ ”Past touch and sight and sound / Not further to be found, / How hopeless under ground / Falls the remorseful day" (a fragment from Housman's poem "XVI - (How clear, how lovely bright)". There's no better metaphor to illustrate what "Concrete Ravings" is offering us and, by extension, Les Fleurs Du Mal's personality: noir (literature/film) introducing noir (as the band likes to define their distinctive rock style). In its musical part, the song lives up the spoken one, driven by their characteristic guitar riffing, pulsating basslines, shimmery rhythm chords and frenzied machine drumming. All that can be expected from a goth hit, but also enhanced through Axel's elegant timbre and some sporadic synth notes that gives the song (in fact, the whole repertoire has this peculiarity) a subtle cold feeling which is characteristic of the Grim Brothers' music.


The next track,"Idolatry: In Vain" (recently released in the"Idolatry" maxi-single), sets a groovy pace which is gradually taken over by mournful passages.


A haunting synth line, along with the clear, impressive singing (featuring somefalsettos backwards), introduce "Concrete Ravings". The title track is an unadultered piece of gothic rock glory (nineties firmly rooted) from start to finish. You will be swallowed progressively into these dynamic, atmospheric and darker, charming shades. Woven guitar and synth melodies provide an epic backdrop for Axel's deep, affectionated, anguished vocals, while preprogrammed beats and bass lines keep up a balancing act with them.


"Nothing" recovers the up-beat hook, driven by a persistent bass performing, danceable drums, catchy chorus and a sticky string section (the latter brings to my mind some second wave German ghosts).


Following it, "Strigoi System" (which was included in "The Knife In My Back" maxi-single the last year) makes its appearence slightly different. The album version ("Uncompromised") is almost twice as length than the previous one ("Sold Out Edit"). In consequence, the band unleashes its creativity adding to the new song some remarkable guitar solos, worrying radio samples and other arrangements. Besides the spare atmospheric touches, some rough edges has been also smoothed out.


The brooding ballad "Celebrity Gala" freezes the climax through its deceptively simple structure. Cold semi-acoustic chords and synths create an unexpected density which intensifies the melancholy in Axel's vocals.


The sadness echoes abruptly disappear when "Idolatry: In Pain" bursts with drumming energy into the scene. Along with the aforementioned "Idolatry: In Vain", this track was released as aforetaste in the "Idolatry" maxi-single. Therock noir gale strikes again, but this time the dark component is sharpen. Gloomy keyboard melodies and sampled violins surround the powerful riffs and drums, giving the song a deeper vibe, unexpected from a catchy structure. This paradoxical ability differentiates Les Fleurs Du Mal from other wrongly lumped bands. Also they combined in their compositions a wide range of influences as demonstrated by "The Storm", thunderously riff commanded again, but also showing astute voice games, constant changes in pace, and a rich variety of arrangements and effects."Stink" follows that path, driven by feverish brass guitar rhythms, prominent bass lines and strong processed drums.


Coming next, the "The Knife In My Back" (Issue 2), even increases the already frenzied rhythm. This new version has been conveniently polished and enriched with some extra arrangements, thereby increasing its potential. The track fades out near the end towards a solemn keyboard soundscape which serves as a preamble for the unsettling album closer: "Substanceless Abuse". Les Fleurs Du Mal can shift the moods successfully, as it's easily proved by this synth-driven tune. Chilling, icy and dark, the song seems densely textured in spite of its minimalistic structure. The suffocating (while placid) atmosphere is ruled only by a few somber keyboard notes, moaning strings, whispering vocals and constantly dripping of funerary drumbeats. A memorable trip to Floodland that deserves to be highlighted.


"Concrete Ravings" is a multi-layered gothic rock gem, held together by wiry guitar lines and driving dance beats. An addictive debut album, filled with tunes that will dig deep under your skin by its underlying dark nature. The proof that Les Fleurs Du Mal is no longer a promise, but an undeniable reality.



Billyphobia



Full review in English and Spanish



ROCK TIMES (germany)


Les Fleurs du Mal is a Gothic- or Dark Rock band founded by the two Swedes Axel and August Grim in 2009. /… / At gigs the two are joined byLuger Haptén and Erik Lazaroff. "Concrete Ravings" is the band’s first official Studioalbum, before that they released one EP and one Single in 2011 and 2012.


As intro the number ”A Remorseful Day” begins with a recital and then enters a slightly rocky domain. It is a bit annoying that the vocals remains distinctly in the background. However the somewhat mixed impression changes immediately with ”Idolatry: In Vain,” also released as a single, here the melody and refrain works and comes naturally and purposeful. The title track ”Concrete Ravings” is also convincing through its catchiness and gets in line with danceable Gothic tracks, aswell as ”Nothing” and ”Strigoi System (uncompromised)”that provides vocal constancy.


Les Fleurs Du Mal does not hold back on catchy hooklines and beautiful melodies. Naturally The Sisters of Mercy and Co are the godfathers aswell as Dark Wave-style pop of the eighties. The symbiosis of the Axel Grim’s voice, the riffs and solos is like a small orchestra.  One senses the processing of the past, rooting in both Dark Rock, as well as Dark Wave. With this opus the Swedes make clear that they can combine danceability, emotion and credibility.

Catchy refrains comes overflowing, ”Idolatry: In Pain”, ”The Storm”, ”Stink” and ”The Knide In My Back (issue 2)” are also numbers, that continue to point out that Les Fleurs du Mal have a voice of their own and above all seem original.


It is important to point out that the band, on ”Concrete Ravings”, knows how to combine varied Gothic Rock with great melodies and lengthy textual hooklines. This was proven already with their previous releases ”Knife In My Back” and ”I”. The Stockholmers have produced a passionate album and clearly underlines it with their arrangements. It’s got groove but stays pleasantly dark all the same, as you must with albums of this hue. Les Fleurs du Mal or the ”Grim Bros.” clearly dictates the direction with their danceable beats and their witty lyrics. Nothing seems dusty and old-fashioned, even though Gothic, no matter what style, has to be nowadays.


Jürgen B. Volkmar



Full review in German