Willibald – Le roi est mort

willibald is a noise rock / indie quartet that hails from Bern, Switzerland that deserves international attention, especially for fans of artful rock music. Their sound is unapologetically dark and atmospheric, the guitars wail and coalesce into gritty and often psychedelic phrases while the drums rumble in a cacophony of groovy pulsing beats while the bass sinks its teeth through the mix. Their lyrics consist of a poetic mix of gloomy, gothic and ethereal imagery that evoke the deepest recesses of the imagination. If you like the idea of noise rock and horror with increasingly darker shades of black, then you’ll enjoy their latest LP Le roi est mort.

This band doesn’t pull any punches, each track is a five minute long exploration on a theme. Their style is relentless—providing listeners with nary a breathing room except for a brief reprise when other sonic elements join in the fray. These songs grip you with a hook and invades your senses with consistently packed instrumentals.

Opener “Andromeda” is eerie and menacing. The lyrics explore a psychic connection with the stars, with ideas that bear mythical and otherworldly connections. The rhythm sections groove in an endless sea of textural guitars, ushering you into willibald’s immersive world. “The Numbing Warmth of your Mother’s Womb” is both beautiful and creepy, with stark imagery that bleeds with its suffocating chord progression. “Tentacles start lurching / suckling on your synapses like old dukes / on your synapses”. It’s a song that stays with you long before it ends, which is an experience that the band offers in abundance.

Other highlights include “I Told You I’m Not Suited for This” which starts with a droning rock sequence akin to a work song. It sounds like a horror/western descent into madness that’s completely unique to the band. “I was goo, Oozing down the walls!”, cries the narrator as he wrestles with the amount of work in front of him (”I mean, the stacks of papers they just keep piling up!”). Workplace horror never sounded this good. 

There are still a lot of gems in this album, and taking a deep dive into them could take weeks for those savvy enough. But by far my favorite is the closing “Laura”, where the noise is stripped back, leaving only sparse riffs and restrained percussion. Vocalist Deborah Spiller really stretches herself in this, with power-ballad chops that dips into operatic and dramatic flourishes, hinting at avenues the band can explore in the future. The lyric “Oh, sugar/ To merge until we decompose” just might haunt my dreams for a good week, but that’s just a small price to pay for music that’s this good.

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