French prog rockers Lazuli have just launched their new album, Onze (’11’), the first with new guitarist Arnaud Beynaud. Onze is the sequel to 2020’s Le Fantastique Envol de Dieter Böhm, an album dedicated to the band’s fans, through one of their most travelled fans who provided the storyline. During the pandemic, the band also released Dénudé, an album of existing songs in new, stripped-down versions.
In the foreword to the new album, frontman/singer/composer Dominique ‘Domi’ Leonetti gives an extremely poetic and emotional account of the past period. A period dominated by the pandemic and, although horrific in nature and scope, but in which it also seemed that a new era had begun; one of peace, love and recovery for people, animals and nature, with even a glimmer of hope that this would lead to rethinking and, who knows, even a better world. But that hope is soon shattered, we are fully back in the rat race that determined our lives before the pandemic.
‘Domi’ was disappointed by it, the positivist and eternal romantic fell into a black hole. But strangely enough, that same hole got the creative juices flowing again, the lyrics came, so did the music, and with the help of his friends in the band, this creative process evolved into eleven new songs, now condensed into the band’s eleventh – and aptly named – album.
All eleven songs come from Dominique Leonetti, but this time the family name appears more frequently on the cover. Wife Aline (together with Dominique) is involved in the artwork and cover design – which is wonderful, by the way. Brother Claude is responsible for mixing, mastering and arranging, and Maryse works on the administrative side. Son Elliot is involved in the sound and is designer of Dad’s guitar. Quite a family business, this Lazuli, recorded in their own home studio, L’Abeille Rôde, which means something like ‘creeping bee’ but comes from a ‘Frenchified’ version of Abbey Road.
Opener Sillonner Des Océans De Vinyles starts like a fairy tale. It literally means ‘criss-cross through oceans of vinyl records’, a poetic ode to the LP, melodic and subdued in atmosphere. Triste Carnival comes from a childhood memory of a failed fancy dress party, the guitar complementing the Léode nicely in this more rock-oriented song. Qui D’Autre Que L’Autre is about the fear of being left out. Brother Claude lets his saw sing as usual, followed by an excellent guitar solo by newcomer Arnaud Beyney.
Égoïne starts in light-footed vein with acoustic guitar, but soon turns into an impressive song that refers to Peter Gabriel. Again, there’s beautiful imagery, a tree survives the seasons but is eventually threatened by a saw (this time not the singing version). Lagune Grise is melancholic with a slow tempo, Domi singing about the beautiful nature of Italy – and the musical saw goes wild for a while. Let’s talk about the weather, as Parlons Du Temps‘ beautiful melody and lyric uses the weather as a metaphor for life.
Le Pleureur Sous La Pluie (‘Crying in the Rain’) is like murmuring in the noise, with a great guitar solo from Beyney in a Day in the Life-like ending. In the fragile Les Mots Désuets, Domi compares himself to old-fashioned words, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. It’s almost a French chanson from a long bygone time, fragile in its beauty. Quite different, La Bétailllère starts with rolling thunder and heavy orchestration, almost cinematic in a passionate indictment of the inhumane transport of livestock. The Léode howls with anger.
Mille Rêves Hors De Leur Cage (‘A Thousand Dreams Out of Their Cage’) is a beautiful subdued ballad with leading roles for Romain Thorel’s piano and Vincent Barnavol’s brushes, plus the beautiful voice of the singer. Le Grand Vide is the closing song, carried by piano, glockenspiel and Léode, this time disguised as bass guitar. The great emptiness is almost palpable in this song that slowly fades away, in repetition. An impressive end to an equally impressive album.
Less (prog) rock this time, more atmospheric, moody, melodic music with beautiful poetic lyrics, as always, melancholic and subdued in character and clearly reflecting the period in which they were written.
The paradox between black/heavy lyrics and sometimes light-hearted, more subdued music is striking, like the contrast between day and night. Leave it to poet/composer Dominique Leonetti. An excellent album, with Dominique’s crystal clear tenor voice, the occasionally singing saw seems less prominent than usual. Arnaud Beyney’s more traditional guitar parts fit well with the band’s ‘new’ sound, but also make it less adventurous. That’s the side I miss a bit; the rock(y) side, the sharp edge, the element of surprise. But that is about the only criticism I can have of this eleventh album by Lazuli. Chapeau, mes amis!
The band is the main act on the first evening of the Progdreams X Festival on Friday 7th April at De Boerderij in Zoetermeer. Definitely worthy of a visit. The final chord is by Dominique Leonetti: ‘Writing these 11 songs helped us keep our heads out of the water during the pandemic. Now they don’t belong to us. Now it’s up to you to bring them back to life by feeding your turntables…’ And so it shall be.
01. Sillonner Des Océans De Vinyles (5:03)
02. Triste Carnaval (5:03)
03. Qui D’Autre Que L’Autre (4:36)
04. Égoïne (5:22)
05. Lagune Grise (5:21)
06. Parlons Du Temps (5:05)
07. Le Pleureur Sous La Pluie (5:04)
08. Les Mots Désuets (3:09)
09. La Bétaillère (4:05)
10. Mille Rêves Hors De Leur Cage (6:20)
11. Le Grand Vide (5:11)
Total Time – 54:19
Dominique Leonetti – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Arnaud Beyney – Guitars
Claude Leonetti – Léode
Romain Thorel – Keyboards, French Horn
Vincent Barnavol – Drums, Percussion, Marimba
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: France
Date of Release: 25th January 2023
– Onze (2023)
– Dénudé (2021)
– Le Fantastique Envol de Dieter Böhm (2020)
– Saison 8 (2018)
– Nos âmes saoules (2016)
– Tant Que l’Herbe Est Grasse (2014)
– 4603 Battements (2011)
– Résponse Incongrue A l’Inéluctable (2009)
– En Avant Doute (2007)
– Amnésie (2003)
– Lazuli (1999)