Lalu is a name that may not be known to every progressive metal fan but it is a band that everyone should be talking about and, more importantly, the band’s albums should sit proudly in the music collection of any right thinking metalhead.
Lalu is actually a project formed by the French keyboard player Vivien Lalu; a man with grand and lofty ideas when it comes to progressive metal and he is very fond of outrageous epic metal which most certainly has the ‘wow’ factor. Lalu put the project together in 2004 and, being the son of Noelle and Michel Lalu of the ’70s progressive act Polène it was only natural that he would be drawn into the wonderful world of progressive rock music. He released the debut album Oniric Metal in 2005 which created a fair amount of interest and was a very well produced and mature first album with some great performances especially from vocalist Martin LeMar (Mekong Delta) and featured plenty of exciting songs with great keyboard and guitar work. We then had to wait until 2013 for Atomic Ark which saw a huge leap forward by a reshuffled band with only Lalu and LeMar remaining from the first release and some stellar names coming on board with Mike LePond (Symphony X) on bass, Simone Mularoni (DGM) on guitar and Virgil Donati (Planet X. Steve Vai) on drums. In addition, the extended guest list matches the rest of the band in terms of star quality with contributions coming from Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), Joop Wolters (the original guitarist from the debut album), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Mike Andersson (Cloudscape) and Marco Sfogli and Peter Wildoer (James LaBrie).
As should be expected, the improvement over an already very good debut was immense and really announced Vivien Lalu as a major player in the world of progressive metal and a man with a talent for writing epic and hard hitting songs. The first two albums closed with near 20-minute epics that take your breath away and you should definitely ensure that you hear these two songs if nothing else as you will not be disappointed. We now come to album number three in Paint The Sky which again sees the band with an altered line-up with Vivian Lalu bringing back Joop Walters on guitar with Jelly Cardarelli on bass and Damian Wilson on vocals. It is a simple statement of fact that if you have Damian onboard then you are going to have a killer album as he has one of the greatest voices in the progressive world and what a wealth of experience he has too. The album is heavy with guests too with Alessandro Del Vecchio, Alex Argento, Gary Wehrkamp, Jens Johansson, Jordan Rudess, Marco Sfogli, Simon Phillips, Simone Mularoni, Steve Walsh, Tony Franklin and Vikram Shankar all making offerings throughout the work.
The album closing 20-minute song has gone but isn’t really missed on the new record as each new track, including the smaller interlude songs, all have a magnificence about them being life affirming and upbeat progressive metal delights. The musical interplay is exquisite as Joop Walters and Vivien Lalu combine perfectly and you have prog heaven when Damian’s rich and lush voice comes into the mix. The guests all add their own little magic to make this a most superior release and a real rock classic. The album is suffused with moments that verge on jazz fusion which calls to mind the works of Allan Holdsworth which, to me, makes this a very special release indeed.
Paint The Sky is loud and heavy but restrained and refined and is most obviously the best Lalu album to date. Hopefully, we will not have to wait another 9 or 10 years before we see album number 4. If you love to hear master musicians playing at their very best then you simply have to hear this very special album.
Paint The Sky
- Reset To Preset (6:24)
- Won’t Rest Until The Heat Of The Earth Burns The Soles Of Our Feet Down To The Bone (ft. Jens Johansson) (3:41)
- Emotionalised (4:35)
- Paint The Sky (ft. Steve Walsh, Tony Franklin, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Jens Johansson, Gary Wehrkamp) (7:54)
- Witness To The World (ft. Marco Sfogli) (4:43)
- Lost In Conversation (ft. Jens Johansson) (4:36)
- Standing At The Gates Of Hell (5:04)
- The Chosen Ones (ft. Jordan Rudess, Simone Mularoni) (7:19)
- Sweet Asylum (1:39)
- We Are Strong (7:39)
- All Of The Lights (ft. Vikram Shankar) (1:51)
- Paint The Sky [Instrumental] (ft. Tony Franklin, Simon Phillips, Alex Argento) (7:54)