Band Website: www.legroupedirection.com
Label: Unicorn Digital
Label Website: www.unicorndigital.com
Release Date: 2008
I can’t remember how I first heard about the French-Canadian band Direction, but something I read made me order a copy of their 2005 disc and I have to say I fell in love with these guys right off the bat. So I was quite excited to hear they’d been signed by Unicorn Digital and that they were about to release a new CD that would actually be their fourth album. Well it’s here and everything I expected and a little more. The CD is entitled EST and features eight tracks of classic Quebecoise symphonic progressive rock. Direction formed in 2002 and is now a trio, having lost their original bass player. The band consists of Marco Paradis (guitars, piano), Serge Tremblay (vocals, bass, keyboards) and Jean-Claude Tremblay (drums).
Their other disc started out with a series of shorter pieces but ended with a 21-minute epic, this time around there’s nothing quite so grand. We have a couple 4-minute tracks, 2-fives, 1-six, 1-eight and 1 that’s almost 12-minutes. The music is bright, up-tempo, melodic and loaded with all kinds of time and tempo changes. You’ll probably hear all the obligatory progressive rock influences, but to my ears their music is easily in the same category as a band like Morse Code. Keyboards play a large part in Direction’s sound. Sprinkled throughout the compositions you’ll hear prog styled organ and plenty of Mellotron sounding strings. This of course is mixed with guitars but they never overpower the song. In fact Paradis’ guitar sounds tend to really hearken back to the seventies in terms of actual tone if not in style. It’s the perfect mix. More than once the band has a kind of “happy-sing-along” style as evidenced in the track “Touriste Urbain” [4:29], it’s the type of song I could easily hear being played on radio stations in Quebec. The longest track, “Soldat” [11:40] starts out with a march-style for the first 3-minutes before going into the first part of the song proper. At about the 5-minute mark the guitar takes on a recurring theme that continues to build on the song’s intensity. All the while the vocals are becoming more intense as well. At the 6:30 mark the composition changes time and tempo with the introduction war-time sound effects. Then were back briefly to a refrain of the opening rhythm with the addition of piping synths before changing yet again, just so that you get the idea. The track has a separate piano-vocal “Finale” [2:03] which bring a track to a close. Then it goes directly into the CD’s closer “Derniere Issue” [8:07] which builds to a rousing crescendo and is loaded with symphonic styled strings making for a grand finish. It’s wonderful stuff.
Direction is a band that will appeal to symphonic prog fans of all stripes. There are hints of Harmonium, Morse Code, and others. But they’re just hints because this music is very much the music of Direction. EST found lots of spins on my player and I’m sure it will on yours as well.