MARK SHREEVE: Legion (1985)
"Perhaps the cradle of the England School as you can imagine it, Legion is a superb album built on a wild sequencer and very catchy melodies"
1 Legion 5:28 2 Storm Column 5:08 3 Flagg 8:24 4 Sybex Factor 5:18 5 Domain 7 6:29 6 Icon 3:56 7 The Stand 5:34Bonus Tracks 8 Legion (Space Mix) 5:50 9 Hammer & Cross 3:51 Centaur Discs Ltd CENCD 006
(CD 50:05) (England School) (V.F)
Fan of horror movies and books? Unconditional of Stephen King? How about listening to the music The Stand? It's obviously inspired by this book that Mark Shreeve built the 7 tracks, the 40 minutes of his 8th solo album. LEGION stands out from the more exploratory genre of Mark Shreeve's first solo albums with shorter and more explosive compositions. A catchy EM conceived around hard sequencing patterns, synths more in synth-pop style and samplings drawn from the sonic librarie of 1980's horror movies. Without a doubt, it's England School's most rock album at the time when Tangerine Dream still enthralled thousands of fans and dozens of musicians with its Underwater Sunlight tour in 1986. It's also possibly the flagship album of English artists' response to Berlin School. Movement which brings EM into more rock basis and which popped out with the emergence of Ian Boddy, Andy Pickford, David Wright and Wavestar, just to name a few. As far as I'm concerned, it's the most pop, heaviest and the most catchy album I've ever heard in the wonderful world of Electronic Music. A heavy opus with jerky and unbridled rhythms that are backed up by a sequencer and breathless electronic percussion to support simple, effective and catchy melodies. An album that has aged quite well!
Using samplings to the maximum, LEGION is full of satanic winks. It's therefore with a strange incantation, like a Black Mass, that a big and heavy line of bass sequences, like a bass, opens the procession of Legion. From then on, the rhythm becomes fast. It coughs on good percussion, metallic chords and a powerful sequencer that sculpts a hard and heavy rhythm with the support of a swarm of percussive keys that roll like the drumming of drums. Subsequently, the rhythm gets tribal. Big trance-like percussions (which may have inspired Juno Reactor) pushes the limits of synthesizer strings a bit philharmonic, but which sound like guitar riffs. It's a heavy, fast and totally demonic title that you've probably heard. Because it was part of the soundtrack of the film; The Jewel of the Nile in addition that it played a lot on dance floors, as evidenced by the many mix and the 7'' that have been made since its release. This shot is not isolated! There are several other very rhythmic tracks that are animated by a sequencer as heavy as fluid on this album. Like Sybex Factor with its hammering percussions and its long synth solos combined with those of Chrissie Bonnacci's guitar. There is Icon with its unbridled rhythm and the ultra paced sequencer, and as fast as that of Chris Franke for example, as well as these metal wings and these cries of bats. Finally, there is Hammer & Cross which arrived on the late. This is a bonus track that appeared on the 1st CD edition on Centaur Discs.
The melodies are still well anchored. And there are some that are simply catchy. Like Storm Column rolling on a structure of rhythm as wild, as jerky as the title-track. It's a loud and nervous title with light and melodious choruses that are in harmony with a very sharp synth. Moreover, this mixture of voice samplings on a rhythm as that jerky is quite great. Flagg is another stroke of genius! The longest track of LEGION opens with a very gloomy intro, as in a horror movie of series B. A little keyboard turns a melody into a threatening rhyme on a line of diabolical sequences that accelerates the pace in the long winding lines of a magnetising synth. The pace pounding a slow walk, at times it looks like a walk of vitamined zombies, and again the sampling is superbly successful. With Domain 7, it feels like being in a surreal marsh with birds and wolves coexisting on momentums of violins and a harmonium keyboard that hovers with good silky impetus whose lines follow the long sensual curves of a dark electric guitar and suggestive of Pat McManus. The effect is demonic! And even more with the violin strings that resonate on little more symphonic layers. The guitar is sublime. We feel the strings being scratched so much the effect is realistic. Being more sentimental than rocker, it's my favorite track. But after The Stand! We hear a synth crying and suffering in an envelope of melancholy so deep that we feel the threads of our soul shivering. Behind a slower rhythm structure and a lot fog effects, a synth line turns its harmonies into those of a trumpet. This track finally comes to give me these goosebumps that has resisted so far throughout this adventure that is LEGION. Not by its roughness, but by its sensitivity and the hold of evil that seems to triumph. It sounds like Ennio Morriconne who made a pact with the Devil in a more Mexican final than Mephistophelic. But the crying of a baby brings us back to reality behind the precepts of LEGION.
Even if closer to a synth-pop, quite progressive and very worked on the other hand, than the other albums of Mark Shreeve, LEGION remains a major album. Just see the asking price on Ebay so one understands its importance in the chessboard of contemporary EM. Its canvas is the kind that can appeal to fans of Gothic music, even if at times the melodies are at skin's edge, lovers of synth-pop and/or hard and heavy E-rock. Everything is well structured. It's a music filled of surprising samplings and unbridled sequences which preserves, in spite of these two elements, all of its melodic dimension. Simply great ... And that should be very kind if one day Mark Shreeve decides to reissue it, because the asking price on eBay is closer to a stealing option than to please the fans of Mark Shreeve.
Sylvain Lupari (September 8th, 2006) *****