Tranzat – Ouh La La


The image of four bearded Frenchmen in pink polo shirts and tight white cotton slacks might give you the wrong idea about Tranzat. They look like they’re warming up for a Weezer support slot, yet they sound more like a progressive version of Faith No More. Now on their third album since appearing on the scene in 2016, the Gallic quartet have the heavy metal rulebook in one hand and a map of the world in the other. Ouh La La is a prog metal opus that will catch you off guard like a prodigal member of the family you last remember as a quiet child. How did something so impressive appear from nowhere?

The key to this album’s brilliance is the remarkable vocal range and personality of guitarist and frontman, Manuel Liegard. This man can croon like a loved-up 1960s soul singer, scream like a hardcore thug, growl like an Alsatian, and roar like a stadium rock god. Opener, ‘Shall We Dance’, has the musical pedigree to back up the charismatic voice. The heavy-as-oxen guitar noise at the beginning will blind you as much as the deliberate misalignment between riffs and beats like Meshuggah’s classic ‘Future Breed Machine’. Is it out of time or in common time? You’re still asking this question when they sail through a landscape of whacky metallic shapes and swing contortions in the hope that taking the best of Devin Townsend and the pizazz of Psykup will help them reach their destination. Surely, you wondered what power metal vocals would sound like with a mathcore rhythm section at the end, right?

‘Lobster Beaujolais’ might be too good in its execution. We all know that Twelve Foot Ninja will be searching for a new singer soon, and Liegard might be auditioning for the vacancy without knowing. He’d be foolish to leave Tranzat on the evidence of this synergy of bass-heavy alt-metal and basso cantante choir vocals in the chorus. A detour via the easy-listening exotica of Les Baxter brings new meaning to avant-garde metal, but the band never forget their roots. This is heavy stuff, yet Liegard croons like Mike Patton when the song requires a silky set of pipes to contrast with the harsher variety. Listen to the beginning of ‘Mr. Awesome’ and ask if this could be a Pain of Salvation cut from their Remedy Lane masterpiece. How do they incorporate the distortion and grinding chord rotations in such an effulgent colour palette?

Only at track five does the album start to emerge as a more conventional piece of prog metal. Despite the ironic humour and eclectic mood, Tranzat have a rich vein of Dream Theater running through their music. Witness the exquisite change of key for the chorus to ‘Lord Dranula’, with its determination to subsist on chunky guitar riffs and carnival rhythms. You think you’ve understood their intentions, but they sabotage the middle eight with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ and end it in a haze of fiendish death metal. Er… What the fuck?

Of course, the musicianship is stupendous on this record, but Ouh La La is more than just a virtuoso record with an art-house sense of humour. The bubbling post-metal intro to ‘My Dear Washer’ could erupt into a volcano of white-hot aggression but opts for a more sinister rhythm of palm-muted guitar notes and schizophrenic vocals. How they fit a melodic rock chorus in here with a lounge jazz interlude defies logic, but they ramp up the metallic fury in the middle-eight as if let loose by, uh, Knocked Loose. Perhaps ‘Pillow Fight’ is the one song you cannot categorise. Its stubborn refusal to avoid thrash metal despite its fast tempo will confuse you as much as their decision to stay away from punk-rock. How do you make sense of something that touches upon post-hardcore, stadium rock and heavy metal for its personality?

It all culminates in the drama of ‘Global Warning’ with its sample of Charlie Chaplin’s poignant dialogue at the end of The Great Dictator, where “Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.” You’d think Tranzat would shun anything that reeks of a Live Aid rock pomposity, but they aim for Devin Townsend’s high standards on Accelerated Evolution (2003) and deliver a stunning prog metal odyssey. This is how you end an album.

Seldom can we say that a modern LP deserves an instant comparison to Faith No More’s Angel Dust, but Ouh La La aims high and follows no rules. It’s a stunning tour de force that takes prog metal to bizarre new territory and blazes forth like the man whose feeding hand cannot be bitten.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 01/04/2022

Record Label: Klonosphere Records

Standout tracks: Shall We Dance, Lobster Beaujolais, Lord Dranula

Suggested Further Listening: Psykup – Hello Karma! (2021), Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction (2011), Twelve Foot Ninja – Vengeance (2021)