Hangman's Chair
Banileue Triste

France’s chosen children of hard rockin’, Maryland doom tinged grooves return with their 5th full-length album, Banlieue Triste, which is their overall umpteenth release to date in a sprawling discography full of driving melody riffs, lamenting crooned vocals, a locked on rhythm section and generally damn good songwriting.  Hangman’s Chair have managed to survive a vocalist change with the first era being a little more strict bluesy 70s metal than the era in which they have advanced to.   The first 2 releases with singer Keo reminded me heavily of the early Church of Misery material, Acrimony and the bone-crunching side of Maryland boogie.

Of their canon of releases, first record (A Lament for…) The Addicts, the split CD with French sludge masters Eibon and the Spirit Caravan/Alice in Chains/Agents of Oblivion influenced twists of 2012’s Hope//Dope//Rope are the classics.  If the band manages to hook their syringes into you, those are the ones to grab first, though Leaving Paris and their killer riff-stacked contribution “I am the Problem” that appeared on the 7” split with Drawers are both well-worth your time and doom-y dollar.  I was personally lukewarm on the last LP, This is not Supposed to Be Positive, so I wondered if Banlieue Triste would bring things back around again.  The prior album had a few bright spots but the songwriting for the first time in their career felt underdone and aimless.

I’m happy to report that the band is back on track, returning to the huge blues riffs, begotten 70s melodies, warped clean post-punk/rock guitars and anthem-worthy compositions of Hope//Dope//Rope.  This feels like where the last record was heading though it never quite reached the destination.  The title track opens up with FX drenched guitars looping through a psychedelic whirl of delay, reverb and echo.  The song is an ambient exercise that overflows into the massive groove of “Naïve” with its alternating doom-riddled power chords and watery post-rock clean licks going the distance as they are so gleefully traded by vocalist/guitarist Cédric and lead guitarist Julien.  They move some huge mounds of Earth on this one and remind me of Unorthodox, Sugarfoot, Layne era AIC, the October Rust/World Coming Down phase of Type O Negative and Agents of Oblivion in the process.  The vocals sorrowfully scale the heights akin to Dax Riggs, Layne Staley and Dale Flood.  Drummer Mehdi showcases a crushing beat throughout with more than a few ample opportunities for gonzo fills that lay into the snare with gusto and erupt into never-ending rolls, while Clément’s bass always maintains clarity and power.  “Sleep Powder” is slower and creepier with some Alice leaned Dirt tossed upon Type O’s triumphant tombstone (R.I.P. to both Layne and Pete).  One guitar hides behind a curtain of submerging pedal-board decay as the other grinds a dissonant riff into the ground.  This has to be a tribute to Type O because a baritone vocal hum and the brief appearance of Steele’s fuzzy bass tone are total homage.  HC transitions between these elements and desolate riffs with the vocals wavering between bluesier gruffness and wailing, trembling melodies that let loose some light falsetto.  The sludgier sections allow the drumming and dual Hefty bag riffs to fly, as the guitars adopt some of the huge chord bends that I always dug about Hangman’s Chair from day one.

At 11+ minutes in length “Touch the Razor” is drowned in fluorescent, deep sea bass waves and guitars that bounce n’ echo as if they are played from the bottom of the Earth’s darkest cavern.  Everything is cemented into place with a crashing, plummeting beat that keeps the rising flood contained.  Harmonized vocals eventually kick in and the guitars spiral into noisy post-rock signals; their piercing feedbacked squalor finally colliding into a dense heavy rock groove that probably takes more downers than the band itself.  They add slight and subtle alterations to each passing of the verse measures in terms of little noises, higher vocal register work and minimalistic drum fluctuations before ramping up to that dripping, dirge-y riff.  Midway through things become open and arid with plenty of smash-up beatings on the kit from Mehdi and the THC loaded chameleon changes of the power chord blueprint.  It winds up on a psychedelic mesa overlooking a shamanic peyote ritual that lengthily trails off into the electro-industrial drum programming and expanded blues/psyche spatial licks of “Tara.” This pairing feels like the lengthier exposition they wanted to achieve on This is not supposed to be Positive done right.

Seattle meets Maryland in the succinct, full on riffage of “04/09/16,” a forward-propelled, nonstop engine of dipping blues grooves afflicted by farewell overdose lyrics steeped in vibrato and echo, craggy stop/starts on the drums and tidal washes of seeping bass overdrive.  It’s got a great song structure and those intersections where the clean stuff meets the distortion breaks up the action nicely.  “Tired Eyes” plies some industrial programmed layers behind a doomed-out riff, string burning pick slides and piercing post rock hypnosis that’s somewhere in the ballpark of My Bloody Valentine and Ride if either spent time listening to St. Vitus, Crowbar and Soundgarden.  It’s experimental without being pretentious thanks to the lung tearing clean vocals, truly depressing soundscapes, thundering rhythmic weight and grinding, hellbound guitars.  You can pick out where they come from but it sounds pretty unique and even quite different than their own past.  As it heads to the 4:30 mark it adopts some melting, trippy soundtrack-like ambience that’s perfect for a dark room and good headphones.  Stick along for the last 2 minutes because that guitar work gets goddamn gnarly with a burly, unshaven doom riff buried in freaky FX and synth coatings that get nearly as weird as Zombi or something.  It pairs well with the buoyant yet largely ballad-chiseled “Negative Male Child’s” shimmering cascades of twin melody guitars smothered in warm bass and trance-y percussive cycles.

Instrumental sprawler “Sidi Bel Abbes” leads in on an extensive guitar work out with trades and a million loops going on like some of the German 70s rock scorchers like Ash Ra Tempel and Guru Guru smooshed together.  It builds as it pleases and takes the attitude of, “If you don’t like where they Hell we’re going with this, then fuck you!”  Electronic stutters fade out during the intro and a distant, boot burning drum stomp tremors beneath a bed of pulsing post-rock melodies.  Slowly the electric guitars burn into existence like the desert sun frying your bare back; bringing with them a Pink Floydian, Gilmour grandeur in the process.  A peak is reached in the form of the drums thudding into existence as the sizzling lead guitar playing goes psychedelically mad atop Eastern thinking rhythm guitar/bass.  Hawkwind fans will also probably understand this one.  Endnote “Full Ashtray” pours on the Man’s Ruin Records’ stoner riff coals with some of the most monstrous, head-nodding grooves on the entire album, funeral procession rhythm work and some very acrobatic vocal howls.  The entire band still makes great use of light and shade in the atmospheric parts to keep things varied until they decide to topple the entire building in a carpet bombing of penultimate Sabbath sludge.

This is a great return to form for the band after a pair of ho-hum releases.  Hangman’s Chair always brought great riffs and melodies to the table and it’s cool to see them on Spinefarm since most of the big American and English 70s oriented labels seem to have missed out on them.  If you like heavy doom-tinged rock with tough as nails guitar work, a sense of melody and balance alongside some experimentation in spatial/soundtrack weirdness, Banileue Triste delivers a bit of everything.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
September 27th, 2018

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