Ainulindale - _Nevrast_
(Independent, 2014)
by: Chaim Drishner (5.5 out of 10)
Tolkien-inspired French one-man project Ainulindale, led and fronted by the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist Thomas Reybard, is one of the most ambitious recordings out there -- especially when taking into consideration the budget issue such an unknown band must have faced without a major label (or any label whatsoever, for that matter) backing this project up financially, and still managing to employ a whole ensemble of classical and other, less traditional musicians, in addition to a choir, as if they were at least Therion, no less. Now, that's impressive! It's nice Mr. Reybard could pull off such an extravagant line-up, although the question that needs to be asked in that context is: why?

For such a minimalist project as this, focusing mainly on acoustic folk lullabies comprised mostly of Mr. Reybard's soft, semi-melancholic voice and an ever-present acoustic guitar, the whole charade is rather redundant. You can hardly hear any of the classical instruments, and the choirs are kept to a minimum. Sure, there are some nice interludes, prologues and epilogues where a full-fledged classical 'attack' is in gear, but those moments are few and far between.

The music is exceptionally tranquil and contemplative, but most of the time there's nothing too engaging or unique going on; the neoclassical aspect of the album, however, is much more compelling than the acoustic folk on display; unfortunately, those blissful moments are hardly felt throughout the album.

Mr. Reybard dubs his music "dark folk"; indeed it is folk music, but you wouldn't find any dark aspects in it. Truth be told, this is a rather average ethereal folk; slightly sad, slightly soothing, highlighting in the best of its moments the presence of a melancholic cello (or some other related string instrument), an intoxicating trombone or a mischievous flute.

The female singer, appearing here and there, doesn't have a great voice; her performance is weak and sleepy, but unfortunately also that of Mr. Reybard, who is a rather dull singer without any singular characteristics or charisma. His choice of using English as the language in which the lyrics are sung further diminishes the album's singularity, integrity and impact: folk-oriented music should always be endemic, connected strongly to the culture and heritage of said musician. Not sure how much the music itself has anything to do with the musician's French origin, at least the dominating language here should have been French -- not only because it is the musician's native tongue and thus more 'connected' to his habitat and upbringing, but also because in the case of the music of Ainulindale, French would have sounded much better as the language of choice here.

Even though Mr. Reybard claims that more than 20 musicians took part in recording _Nevrast_ (and there's no reason not to believe him), we can only hear a fraction of that number, as most of the time, only the singer and his guitar perform and occupy the better part of the recording. Kudos to Mr. Thomas Reybard for recording an album using only 'real instruments' as he proclaims, despite the tempting technological option, however he could have settled for his guitar and probably some string instrument and a pace-making apparatus of sorts, and the music would have sounded just the same: delicate, sad and tranquil ethereal folk of the most simple-minded kind. In other words: the extravaganza display was completely unnecessary here.

Ainulindale had a track featured on the highly acclaimed Prophecy Productions compilation _Whom the Moon a Nightsong Sings_, which is a plus for the band, but if you are into truly engaging dark folk, why don't you try another band that participated in this high-quality folk compilation, let's say Orplid?

Pretentious and occasionally beautiful in a very lukewarm manner, _Nevrast_ is ultimately folk music for beginners. In addition to being extremely simplistic, it lacks the innate ironical malice and the traditional connotations other, better folk groups possess; think of the excellent Hungarian band The Moon and the Nightspirit, that are somehow related to Ainulindale style-wise, listen to both bands back to back and you'll realize the big difference in quality between the two.

We strongly feel the artist behind this project, who's undeniably dedicated to his art and spared no resources to make this project a reality, should search deeper and express his individuality, heritage and culture, rather than expand sideways and employ half a symphonic orchestra that ultimately yields no added value to the musical material. Look at the simplicity of Death in June's _Rose Clouds of Holocaust_ for instance, and how depraved and dark that album sounds. Ainulindale could have recorded a masterpiece here, using the very simple elements Death in June did, and in fact the former does use the very same elements, but something in the songwriting department isn't quite working, so instead of producing a dark and beautiful album, _Nevrast_ is by no means dark and its beauty is arguable. In other words: this album is like a face where every feature of it is perfectly exquisite -- the eyes, nose, mouth, et cetera -- but as a whole the face is unappealing and leaves much to be desired.


(article published 22/7/2014)

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