Monday 8 April 2024

Qilin - Parasomnia (2024)

Country: France
Style: Psychedelic Rock/Doom Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 12 Jan 2024
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This album is a few months old now, so counts as less recent than I tend to prefer to review here at Apocalypse Later, but I enjoyed Qilin's debut album, Petrichor, so much in 2020, that I didn't want to miss out on its follow-up when it crossed my path recently. I also didn't want to wait until next January when I do catch up on what I missed from 2024, because I'd probably forget and then feel bad when I stumble onto it again, having missed my window.

Qilin are French and they play heavy instrumental rock that straddles the border with metal. You could fairly describe what they do as psychedelic rock but it's just as often doom metal and all the best pieces move between the two. That's one way in which this album echoes the debut. Most of the tracks are long and the band, which I believe remains unchanged from last time, allow them to breathe, which leaves room for a couple of modes. There's the heavy mode, with the bass turned up high and the guitars switching between cavernous riffs and wailing solos. And then there's the mellow mode, which is much softer and drenched in atmosphere.

The result is as immersive as last time out but oddly still mostly fails to work as a travel agent for me. What I mean there is that instrumental psychedelic rock often takes me places. Sure, I listen to it as music but it also sends me on a journey too. I have aphantasia so can't frame images in my head, but I still get impressions in the form of feelings. These albums often make me feel like I'm on another planet or drifting between the stars, to cite just two common examples. This doesn't, though it hints at it in those mellow sections.

Instead, it remains stubbornly music, but it's music that I really enjoy. It's heavy but melodic and it's immersive, as if it's so big that it surrounds me. It starts out achingly slow with three minutes of funeral doom called Ouro, that's emphatically an intro to set up the sound palette and lead us into the best track, Lethean Dreams. This isn't three minutes long, needless to say—it runs eight and half—and it builds carefully.

It begins mellow in the closest section anywhere on the album to take me somewhere. It feels like I'm in a huge echoing cavern, perhaps like the cover art, but I'm not the character walking towards it. I'm inside waiting. There's a real sense of patience to it, as if there's no reason to move at all, a feeling of centering where I settle down and wait for everything to come to me. And it does, but I sit, safe and still, in the middle of that cavern while the music changes around me. Even when the song ramps up into heavy mode, playing out like a force of nature, I'm not part of it. I'm calm and unaffected, but not unappreciative, as it rages around me. I listen and enjoy.

And I remain there for forty calm minutes, listening and enjoying, while the remaining four pieces of music play out, along with an interlude in the middle of them. It's odd to see an interlude, as it's not uncommon for the shift between heavy and mellow to effectively incorporate interludes as an inherent songwriting component, but Innervision is very mellow and introduces the heaviest piece on offer, which is the bludgeoning Hundred-Handed Wards.

I like Qilin when they're being mellow, though Innervision may be the weakest such section on the album. However, I like them most when they're raging and the swirl of tasty feedback that wraps up Hundred-Handed Wards is raging indeed. It's probably beaten only by the finale to On Migoi's Trail and the core of Lethean Dreams. I love how they generate maelstroums of energy and whip them around like ancient wizards, destroying everything in their wake yet never losing control of their tools of destruction.

These two aspects constitute the majority of the album, but there's one further touch I should let you know about, because it surprises me every time those waves of feedback in Hundred-Handed Wards feedback subside and Qilin launch into the final track. This is Boros and it opens up entirely like AC/DC. Sure, the bass is drenched in fuzz, but that's an AC/DC build if I've ever heard one. It's happy to not continue down that path as the piece grows and no vocalist shows up, whether Brian Johnson or anyone else, but it does still stay perkier than anything else on the album, even as the longest track here. It doesn't really slow down until about halfway through its nine minutes and it doesn't calm until six and a half minutes in.

And so that's Parasomnia, which refers to sleep disorders that crop in when you're not asleep but not truly awake either. Your brain is still only partially awake and that does seem to be the perfect time to let an album like this wash over you. That would be a way to start the day!

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