Asylum Pyre is one of those bands that do not leave one indifferent and that one has little difficulty in remembering.Discovered for my part two years ago during their only gig in the North of France, I remember being impressed by their ability to take over the place and captivate the audience. From the very first seconds of the show, the band pours a breathtaking energy throughout the venue, without ever letting up, and the more the tracks come and go, the more you ask for more. The same goes for their fourth album, simply entitled N°4, released a little over a year ago by M & O Music.
N°4 is a concept album that propels us in 2052 into a devastated world. Each member of the group represents a character from an association of resistance fighters, defenders of Mother Nature. The album tells us their story, their struggle. The introduction sounds like the first page of a book that opens gently, we feel that it’s the calm before the storm. With its rhyme-like allure, this first track allows us very quickly to get acquainted with the two main voices of this album. This is the first opus with the singer Ombeline Duprat, alias Oxy Hart. With the eleven tracks that follow, we’re tossed between very powerful tracks like Dearth, Lady Ivy or The Right to Pain, and other little sweets like Into the Wild or On First Earth (which was recently published with a “lockdown video”). Two singles were released shortly before the album: Sex, Drugs and Scars with a Lyrics video, with the participation of Beast In Black singer Yannis Papadopoulos, and One Day with a video clip worthy of the biggest productions where we can discover the different characters embodied by the band members.

Musically, this album is full of surprises. On the drums, forget the blast beats, it’s with groovy patterns that we kick your ass. The bass is very present and gives all the depth to the sound, while giving a nice little solo part on One Day. Guitars want clearly be incisive with heavy distorsion, with a special mention for Lady Ivy’s smashing debut. The solos are played by Nils Courbaron (Sirenia, T.A.N.K). The whole is enhanced by numerous synth sounds which give a modern electro side to the album. As far as the vocals are concerned, Oxy reveals here the extent of its capacities. We feel at ease as well on calm and laid down parts where we almost have the impression that she whispers in our ear, as on passages where she can let all her power burst, as on the after-solo of Lady Ivy. The male vocal parts are provided by Johann Cadot, guitarist, main composer and author, and the symbiosis between the two singers is remarkable.
The album ends on Cemetary Road, a nugget in my opinion, which once again allows us to appreciate the diversity of Oxy’s vocals and the work of nuances brought by the whole band.
To sum up, this N°4 is the album you need when you need a big musical slap in the face … But beware, future “Fighter”, when you’ll have pressed “Play”, you won’t be able to do without it.

Asylum Pyre No4 pochette

A few days ago I met virtually Ombeline, in Bosnia for the lockdown, and Johann. They tell us a bit more about the band and the upcoming projects.

Asylum Pyre is 10 years old! Johann, when you started the project, did you imagine it would go this far ?

J. It was never really thought through, I never even thought about having a band when it happened. They were just people I met a few times by chance, we made a jam one day, and then we brought a composition, we found a name, we made a demo … Today we’re almost thinking about the next album while we’re recording the current one, but at the beginning we didn’t know what we were doing, where we were going… we didn’t know how to play… [lol]

If you had to do it all over again, would you do it all the same way ? What would you want to change ?

J. I think I’d work a little more on the theory and the instrument before I get started. There have been a lot of mistakes in the history of the band. Some people’s choices were not the right ones at a certain time, some behaviours were not the right ones either, including me. Taking a step back, trying to be more confident at some times… I don’t have the answer, actually. Apart from an album that we should have stopped during the recording process, rested and started again from the beginning (Spirited Away), the rest was the natural evolution of things.

I would have liked the first bassist, Julien, could have stayed in the band. I love the members of the band today, I don’t have any problem, on the contrary, but it’s true that he’s someone with whom we built the band and who brought something else to the project, someone interesting, and I regret to have lost this contact. I’d like to have him too but I wouldn’t take any of him away from the current team.

Ombeline, you joined the project quite recently, I believe it was two or three years ago ?

O. Even more so now, at the end of 2016. It’s getting old! I do feel like it was two years ago, but it’s going to be four years this year. Johann was just starting to make the No. 4 demo when we met.

What made you want to join the band? How did it happen: was it you who positioned yourself or did the group come to you?

O. It was a recommendation. I already knew Asylum, I had seen the band play before and I was very happy when Johann contacted me. It was a friend, Steve, well known in the Parisian metal scene, who told Johann to contact me when he was looking for a singer. One day, I was at work and I got a message from Johann: “Hello, I’d like to talk to you” [lol]. Then I had an audition. That day, when I left Johann’s home, I clearly sulked, I wasn’t happy at all. It must be said that Johann has a rather special way of auditioning. I arrived at his home and he introduced me to the new songs. He gave me one of them and said “OK, sing ! ». It happened pretty much like that. I think we were together for at least two or three hours and I left without even saying goodbye [lol]. It wasn’t against him it was to me, I really thought I wasn’t being good enough.

You have a great team with you, can you tell us a little bit about the other musicians ?

J. No … [lol]

O. We love them very much, we miss them very much.

J. Actually the oldest in the band after me is Thomas, who arrived 7-8 months before Ombeline, when we were preparing the two tours with Stream of Passion and Luca Turilli. He’s an excellent drummer who brings a touch of rock and a lot of groove to the music.

O. And tribal, a touch of rock and tribal I would say.

J. He really brings something interesting to Asylum. In fact, it’s from one of his drum patterns that we reviewed almost all the copy on Dearth that became what it is today. In the beginning there was something we weren’t happy with. We reviewed some passages with Thomas, and then the chorus and some passages with Ombeline, and finally the song has nothing to do with its first version.

Then there’s our friend P.E. on bass… Then on bass and now on guitar, because he came first as a bass player, then he left, and he came back. He had to leave because of personal problems, we weren’t angry, he didn’t have time. And finally he had time again and he came back as a guitarist, which was a big surprise. We reinstated him and we are very happy to have him back. He’s got a lot of experience, he was in a band called Heavenly, which is very well known by Power Metal fans, he toured a lot with Stratovarius for example, or Edguy at the time. Excellent musician too.

And the last one, Fab, otherwise known as “The Salmon”, who joined us since our little expedition to Slovenia for the MetalDays where he had just had to replace P.E on bass, and who has since joined us as a proud bass player. Excellent musician, super nice too.

Asylum Pyre band

What are you most proud of about Asylum Pyre? What do you think is your strength?

O. If I may say so, I can’t speak for the whole career of the band, but on a personal note, this is the last album and especially the fact that, for the one that’s coming up, we’ve all got to know each other. With N°4 we made a first try of each other’s influences, and Johann managed to appropriate and combine them while keeping the Asylum Pyre style. Sometimes when you have a composer, you recognize his own touch and that’s all, but Johann is very open to what we can bring. He includes all the ideas, we rework them, and that’s really nice. So there’s still Johann’s touch which we recognise perfectly as a songwriter and essentially as a composer, but there’s also, for instance, the slightly fusion, African rhythmic side of Thomas I was talking about earlier. Johann is very open about that and it’s a real pleasure to be able to have patterns … you know “Toum toukoutou koum” [Ombeline sings us a rhythm of African percussions … a real pleasure].

J. Indeed, I would say that I manage to mix everyone’s influences. I come from nowhere musically, I don’t have any base, I didn’t take any lessons, I started from scratch … As a very good friend who played in Asylum as a bass player said : ” To be where you are with what you know is incredible “. Maybe that’s the pride of the band, starting from nothing at all and with very few basics, to be able to do something nice and to have been able to make albums (especially the last one) that have a good face, to have been able to play last year in 1500 people venues with a warm welcome, that’s a real satisfaction for the band.

O. As a small aside, I bounce back on what Johann was saying, there’s also something very Franco-French where you have to have studied music etc.. You always have the impostor syndrome: because you won’t have done such a music class, you’ll be pointed out sometimes. For me it’s a question of listening, of assimilating what you’ve already been able to listen to, then of course there’s the part of talent that makes you know how to put things together. It’s also the role of Johann, the conductor, to manage to mix it all together.

With the album N°4 you brought a whole universe with stage outfits that are rather topical. Where did this concept come from ?

J. It’s an evolution since the beginning of the band. When you look at the lyrics from the beginning it was already a little bit about these things. Last year we made a history of what each album tells, and even if it wasn’t necessarily conscious, we realized that there was a natural evolution of the themes from the awareness to the near future, to a hypothesis of the more or less near future. And then there were exchanges, discussions on these subjects related to the environment, to the protection of the planet, which touched me a lot. We often talk about these things in the band, we can joke for a moment and then suddenly talk about politics or the future of the world. We never get bored as a topic of conversation. We talked a lot about that world, especially when we discussed the cover and what the lyrics said. So it’s kind of a long and common maturation.

O.That’s right, it also follows the evolution of society, more or less recent awareness. I was already aware of this before I joined the band, I was already militating for WWF in particular, so the themes Johann deals with are issues I’ve been aware of for about ten years or more. There’s an ecological awareness and to become part of the world, that’s the advantage of this album and also of the album to follow and the next ones, it’s that we follow our own paths. Concerning the mask and the fact that it was designed like that for the cover, we have a cynical spirit, we have to admit it. Not in the bad sense of the word, always criticizing everything, but rather putting things under observation, confronting them. I had seen that Louis Vuitton proposed masks in China with their acronym, and it’s quite interesting to see that this tool, which is not at all aesthetic, had finally become a fashion tool. It’s completely cynical when you look at the way they’re made, it’s toxic, it’s an ecological disaster, but you’re still on the fancy side and it corroborates exactly what we could say in the lyrics. There are always two-way messages, you can understand the lyrics in a detached way as if it was a story, but if you dig a bit deeper you have a lot of references to a lot of current things.

J. It’s true that the mask which is becoming a fashion accessory, we didn’t think it would come so quickly !

I heard that the next album is already well underway. What can you tell us about this one ?

J. It is very likely that there will be a part I and a part II because we already have a lot of initialized tracks. So even if we will certainly work on it again, there is at least the basis for about twenty tracks. We’re going to record them as two albums, but thematically it’s going to be closer, there’s the idea of having two parts. In terms of story, it’s going to be the continuation of what we did on N°4. In terms of music, there are still some evolutions, more tribal. We had fun coming up with a name for the band music style one day. As we couldn’t define our style, we used to say modern power metal, but that’s very short. So we said we were doing modern and traditional power speed electro pop metal with tribal touches. So it’s gonna be something like that.

Ombeline, on the album N°4 everything was already almost done when you arrived, this time is it you who will compose the vocal parts in their entirety ?

O. No, it’s Johann because he has much better ideas about singing than I do, if I have any suggestions of course I’ll let him know. I’m not bad at doing all the double vocals and the little arrangements because of my influences, but that’ll come afterwards.

J. There’s a real World touch that Ombeline brings on some passages.

O. And Jazz! That’s what Johann calls “Oxysing” the song. I have a background of saxophonist, so there’s necessarly some stuff that’s a bit… swinging! That’s my speciality.

J. There will be even more mixing than before, in fact, there will be a few small passages that will surprise people I think.

O. We’ll be able to say that we make some “bitching” music again.

What are your ambitions for this new album, and more generally, for the band in the next few years ?

O. Logically of course it would be to be able to promote the album. Then I think what we need to mature on are the stage elements, to reinforce the visuals that have already been developed. It’s not for everyone, you have to be able to think about things graphically, you have to have an idea of the scenography, and when it’s not your job, it’s not always easy to envisage it.

J. For the moment we don’t really know when the concerts will be able to come back. We’ve got a number of shows that have been cancelled, we’ve got one in England normally in September but there’s a big risk that it will be cancelled too. So it’s complicated today to have this kind of visibility, unfortunately.

O. I also think that as far as Asylum is concerned, we should try to use the new media tools. As Johann said, we don’t know when the concerts will start again, and we should take advantage of this time to better position ourselves from a digital point of view. This can also be part of the band’s projects.

Has this period of confinement allowed you to achieve things that you had left aside before, for Asylum Pyre and/or for other projects ?

J. Many things yes… tidy up, first ! And personally I’ve progressed on a lot of projects, so now I have 5-6 albums just waiting to be recorded and arranged.

O. Only ?

J. Yes, I speak for those who are finished.

O. I was a little disappointed, actually.

J. No, or there’s 17 of them! I’m only counting songs that are pretty much structured, if you add all the ideas, things where there are only bits or a chorus, you can multiply by two. What about you Ombeline?

O. It was nice to finally be able to settle down and do little things, even if it was only to review the demos, everything that has already been done, etc. It was a great feeling to finally be able to settle down and do little things. I usually run out of time. And next to the band, I have projects of series. I was finally able to settle down, and fortunately I had taken my cameras before leaving, I take advantage of being in Bosnia to be able to shoot what I had in mind. Finally it’s time to win on the sequel, when we’ll have to go back to work full time. I also had a web series project on Bosnia on which we’ve made really good progress. And I updated my site, a lot of little things. It’s been profitable for that.

We all tidied up around us eventually…

O. Yes from a physical and mental point of view as well!

It’s allowed us to re-focus, to realise the little things that we tend to forget, especially in the Paris region I think. In the end you get attached to things that are far too material, comparisons with others. Yesterday it was stormy, I was in bed and I was thinking to myself “that’s really the ultimate happiness” when you can start to fall asleep with the storm and the rain, what more do you need! It’s the kind of thing when you’re in too much turmoil, especially in Paris, you end up not even appreciating it anymore, you don’t even realize you have it around you. The fact that things are going a bit slower, at least on my side, has allowed a kind of refocusing that was absolutely necessary.

J. I quite agree with what you’re saying here, and it reminds me of a pun that I read not long ago: « Je ne veux pas revenir à l’anormal »  [« I don’t want to go back to the abnormal » in English] and that’s a bit like that. When I saw the people in the streets, all the cars, I said to myself « no, I don’t want to go back to that ».

Thank you very much for answering these few questions. We look forward to listen your fifth album and to see you on stage again. Any last words to conclude?

O. I used to say “stay curious”. We used to talk about the positive effects of being in lockdown, at least for those who were lucky enough not to have sick relatives, there’s the fact that they’ve been able to discover things. Of course some people got bored, but most of them started to learn a new language, or to get back to an instrument. So: let’s try to ensure that what we were able to learn during the lockdown can continue, let’s remain curious.

J. No better !

Photos : Alban Verneret

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