album reviews

Relapse Records (2008)

A concept album about Marie Antoinette is an unlikely project for a metal band, but Jucifer handles the task phenomenally on "L'Autrichienne" (literally: "the Austrian," a derogatory epithet referring to Marie Antoinette's ancestry).

The album succeeds, in part, because the concept is manifested more as a footnote than as a history lecture: Although the story of the French Revolution is spelled out song by song in the liner notes, no track relies on its backstory, and only one, the ominous "Procession a la Guillotine," is a reenactment of its title.

"L'Autrichienne's" real appeal, though, is Jucifer's seamless genre shapeshifting. The band's heavy barrage of sound varies in style from the nine-minute doomy sludge metal of "The Mountain" to the deafening chaotic noise of "Thermidor" to the heavy-rock number "Blackpowder." It's hard to believe that all that sound comes from just two people (and stacks upon stacks of amplifiers): singer-guitarist Amber Valentine and drummer Edgar Livengood. Even more astounding is their ability to dial down the noise; for every Courtney Love-channeling moment, such as "Window (Where the Sea Falls Forever)," Valentine counters with a song that's downright pretty. The title track and the mellow "To the End" could almost be lullabies and certainly capture the softer, human side of Marie Antoinette. Creating an album about her might have been a risky concept, but Jucifer has executed it (pun very much intended) to near perfection.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 2 January 2009, Page WE07
.: L'Autrichienne on