It is a bold move when an artist does something drastic like radically change their sonic direction. Fans are instantly polarized, alienated, or, worst of all, lost. Why must an artistic decision made by the artist himself take hundreds of individual opinions into consideration? Does that not seem counter-productive to the artistic process? It’s probably best to hold off on launching into a roundabout and rhetorical diatribe regarding the merit of the artist versus the fans who vindicated them as such. Regardless of what side of the fence anyone sits on, it seems almost unanimous that the decision made by Geoffroy D to steer Dernière Volonté into undesired territory was a misguided one. Fans speak of his output up until 2006 as a golden time in martial music, and rightfully so. To this day Devant La Mirror (DV’s final album in the aforementioned era) has never been topped in any capacity by any martial artist, and it remains a personal and perennial favourite of this scribe. Such fervent anticipation lead up to 2010’s Immortel release, only to be followed by scores of baffled voices rising up in bewildered protest. For those not familiar, the offending release took a defiant step away from the military edge that kept things so interesting in favour of a much more minimalist and strictly electronic dance approach. The bombastic nature was gone and much of the poignancy fell flat in this new context. However much we may complain as fans, it is still the prerogative of the artist to do as he pleases with his vision. There is nothing we can do about that. Musical history lesson aside, this is the context in which we find Dernière Volonté in our present day milieu, and with the release of Ne Te Retourne Pas we are forced to relive the glory days and the inevitable downfall all over again.
“Never Turn Back” as a literal translation of the album title stands as an unapologetic declaration of commitment to where things began and what has become. A firm statement reclaiming his right to execute music as he sees fit. Ever the defiant maverick? Or just pushing our proverbial buttons? The HauRuck! label presents us with a compilation of rarities that span the career of the French martial mastermind. As their centennial release, Albin Julius/ HauRuck! reflect the enduring relationship between the band and the label. Here are tracks that were recorded within the aforementioned golden era and they carry the power that one would expect. What a wonderful breath of fresh air! It is like meeting an old friend after years of being apart. The martial spirit is once again reawakened through the military drum lines and spectacular melodies of propaganda. These are songs akin to an indoctrination that should be welcomed with open arms, all the while extolling the beauty intrinsic to the words and intensions. Just as before we blissfully go along for the ride and enjoy every moment of it. A double edged sword brings forth a bittersweet climax as the reality of history sets in. As a microcosmic view of Dernière Volonté’s career, the unavoidable is ever on the horizon, meaning that we must endure the coming of minimal mediocrity in real time. However, at least the arrangement of songs slowly eases into the loathed territory: some of it dispersed here and there until the final handful of tracks take full control. There is certainly some degree of design to this album in order to keep fans satisfied while still staying true to the overall vision and body of work. Still, it is difficult to see the validity in some of these decisions, and the inclusion of the latter tracks is a hard hit of reality. Gone are the percussive elements in favour of weak synthetic beats. Gone is the fanfare and orchestral feel in favour of sequenced pads and electronics. Evolution must occur to truly remain as art, but when such greatness is passed over it can only be considered a disappointment.
Very little is gained in rehashing the same debates and laments, but it is nearly impossible not to remember what once was when directly confronted. Overall, Ne Te Retourne Pas is a pleasant assortment of lost or forgotten Dernière Volonté gems that preserve the same spirit and imbue the same majestic feeling as prior albums and releases. All who appreciated any moment within this body of work will find enjoyment, as it is essentially a brand new record of (a majority of) the classic sound. Just as we need to respect the decisions of the artist, we also retain the right to speak our minds, reject what we please, and remember the days that solidified us as the fans we are!
1. Un Pas En Arrière
4. J’Aimerais Tant Crier
5. Regard Camouflage
6. Mon Insolence (Corps Languissants, Chapter 1)
7. Ne Te Retourne Pas
9. L’Eau Froide
11. La Nuit Revient (WP.38)
12. Tout A Disparu