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Whyzdom - As Time Tuns to Dust

CD Info
9 tracks
English, French lyrics (at last)
10/10 plus

I’ve covered every Whyzdom release since their initial EP, and I can say in all candor they’ve gotten better with every installment. Vynce Leff is one of the most competent humans I’ve ever encountered.  I don’t know what he does outside of music, but, musically and in the visual arts, I know of few who even begin to compare.  Vynce puts this stuff together, he writes the music, the lyrics, does the programming and then sits down and works his magic with Final Cut Pro when required.  So, I’m guessing he’s a tech guy in his other lives.  No one learns the kind of software packages he does as quickly as he does.  And I might add that when I first spoke to him, he could barely speak a word of English, now he’s fluent.  Wish I could do that with my French.  I’ll have more to say about that French directly.  

I finally got to see these guys live at MFVF at Oktoberhallen a couple years ago.  Some bands sound better live than they do in recording, some sound worse.  As good as Whyzdom is in recording, they are, IMO, even better live.  Vince brings a choir, some lovely ladies that add considerably to the musical excellence.  But, there’s so much more.  He’s worked with a number of female vocalists, none exactly objectionable.  But the current lovely lass, Marie Mac Leod is certainly the best of the bunch.  Got to meet her at Oktoberhallen too, she’d performed just a few weeks after delivering her first child and it didn’t seem to effect her dramatic presentation on stage a bit.  And, trust me, she’s dramatic on stage.  And a voice you won’t soon forget.  On this release, she sounds even better.  Not sure how that happened but the effect is mesmerizing.  Its a sound you won’t soon forget.

I’d talk about how the release came into being, but Vynce is a better source.  He explains, “As far as I remember about writing this album, it all started with a latin verse : 'Memento homo quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris' which is used in the song Dust We Are. It means literally 'Man, remember that you are dust, and that to dust you will return'. So the idea of dust was central in the conception of the album. It starts with the song Armour of Dust. I did like the idea of an illusory solid protection while the real danger is more a moral one. In this song, a girl in a country destroyed by war, remembers her dead father and the fairy tales he used to tell her before the night, as well as his promises to protect her, that he won't be able to fulfill anymore.  And the album ends with Dust We Are, in which we simply acknowledge the fact that Human Kind is nothing but dust in the universe - despite gods, wars, religions.

In between those two songs, there are varied thematics, difficult to explain in a few sentences. It goes from fragility and naivety of human kind to how monstrous, self centered, and even criminal, men can be - especially through politics and religion The Mistchild is a good example of that, as well as Armageddon. I would add that there are several texts that  are written as support to feminism. This is the case in Free As A Bird.

It’s also worthwhile to hear Vynce discuss production, no one does production better, “As usual, it is produced in my own studio. Putting together all recordings from drums to vocals took almost one year. And mixing so many instruments is a real challenge, especially when the idea is to keep all intelligible, without sacrificing any of them. Orchestrating was done in a more cinematic approach than other albums, with more landscape ambiance and climax building - think for example of songs like Armour of Dust (the calm choir introduction) or Fly Away with huge low brass that gives power to the song and the sense of inevitable action. The best modern realistic orchestral samples were used, from Berlin orchestral tools to Vienna Symphonic libraries as well as East and West samples. But for the choir, as usual, we recorder real voices. It's a distinctive trait of Whyzdom : we don't want to use fake gibberish latin chant, as it is done in many productions and cinema trailers. The meaning is very important for us.  It is rather obvious that God, angels and human kind are at the center of this album, but there is also a more intimate approach through songs like The Page, Follow Your Heart or Angel of Tears that are focused on intimate feelings.” 

And finally, I had to ask Vynce about the French language choral parts.  I’ve been crying for Vynce to do some French lyrics for years.  He gave me lots of good reasons why that wasn’t a good idea.  But, they appear here to dramatic effect.  Vince explained, “That leads to the question of French... There are many choir parts written in French. I like to write choir in French, because I find that the language is better suited to choral work than English. English sounds very natural to me in rock/metal lyrics, but in classical choir, I prefer French. I think it is due to the different rhythmic approach of each of these languages. I found French more majestic, for example in the introduction of the album ‘Armour of Dust’, and more adapted in the howling choir at the end of The Page, where the singers express their deep suffering.

And well, sometimes, I like to write lyrics in my own language, simply because I can use the poetry of my mother tongue. It's the case of the choir part of Fly Away, that I am very proud of.”

The release begins with an instrumental front end on Armour of Dust.  We then move to the choir, in French, reminding us of an ancient sound from the middle ages:

Monde en colère, armées en guerre / Dans le sang et dans la poussière
Seule sur la grève tu marches en rêve / Baignée de larmes, larmes amères
Où est ton père ? / Tombé sans haine. Colère et folie


Angry World, armies at war / Under the blood and the dust
Alone you’re walking on the strand / Drowned in tears, bitter tears
Where is your father ? / Fallen without hate. Anger and madness.

Then Marie joins in, backed up by the choir:

Armour of Dust / Protect me from the madness of warriors
Give me the strength to stand / In this world of folly and of tear
Armour of Dust so strong and so weak  

From there we move to some more traditional metal, with Marie’s vocals taking over the vocal parts.  This is about as good as it gets in this style of music.  And it continues on from there.

There is a lot of great music on this release.  I don’t think any of it will disappoint you.  But some just resonated with me for a variety of reasons.  One of these was The Page.  This one takes a beautiful avenue to relate thoughts most profound.  A book is the vehicle by which these thoughts are expressed, but the music multiplies these thoughts exponentially.  Marie introduces those thoughts:

I am crying alone in the dark with a book in my hand
But I cannot read the words, I cannot stand the pain
My tears have flown down the ancient pages blurring all the lines 
Erasing the memories no matter how good or how sad

Words and lines intertwine distorting time
Opening old scars that I thought were buried in my heart 

Words are weapons of the mind / Sharper than knives
O please stop I am begging you / Please stop tearing my heart apart 

Her thoughts continue in sounds most beautiful.  But, at some point Vynce releases the choir, the first segment male dominated:

On n'efface pas l’écrit / On ne remonte pas le temps
Oublie tes regrets / Oublie les larmes versées
Oublie tes remords passés / Il te faut maintenant tourner la page
Et écrire l'avenir

Then, Vynce releases a second female choir over a screeching guitar that takes us to the heights in this genre of music.  

Tournent les pages / Saignent les cœurs blessés
Tournent les pages / Grondent les tempêtes
Larmes, cris, rage, défaites / Peurs, haine, colère, sang
Lettres, mots, phrases, silences
Plaies, coups, blessures, souffrances

Oublie tes larmes / Oublie les peurs
Tourne la page

Sorry, music like that just can’t be done in any language other than French, you have to hear it to understand.  And the conclusion of the track may be the highlight, Marie goes full opera, it’s breathtaking.

Well, that’s As Time Turns to Dust.  I just don’t know how you can make music like this any better.  This is an instant classic.  But then, I wouldn’t expect anything less from Vynce Leff.