Dernière Volonté has been around long enough and has been reliable enough in terms of its sound that you have a pretty good idea of what a new album will bring: The project does military pop better than just about anyone, incorporating the influences of bygone anthems into an electronic mix with Geoffroy D.’s melancholy vocals and insistent rhythms being equal parts marching band and dance floor ready. It’s a formula that continues to work well for the project and its fans. However, this new release, Prie Pour Moi, is a bit of a conundrum. While it doesn’t depart significantly from Dernière Volonté’s past, I think there will be a number of fans who aren’t going to be pleased at all.
Along with Dernière Volonté, Geoffroy has also worked on his more eighties-style electro project Position Parallèle, and those influences seem to have bled into the sound on Prie Pour Moi. Granted, Dernière Volonté has been getting more pop and less military over recent releases, but here it seems more evident. Right off the bat, the dark-tinged intro dissolves into the upbeat ‘Les Rêves de Dorian’, where the near-rap vocals are likely to come as a shock to the industrial system of longtime listeners. Other tracks aren’t quite such a departure, but the influences of eighties club stalwarts like OMD, New Order, and Camouflage have definitely colonized Dernière Volontê’s military outpost.
The band’s sound has always had a kind of prettiness to it, but tracks like ‘Petit Soldat’ and ‘Le Premier Souffle’ dance perilously close to sugary. And what is likely to alienate some fans is that there’s precious little to balance that sweetness. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great pop songs here; I found my head bobbing along to the aforementioned ‘Les Rêves de Dorian’ (vocals and all) and ‘Je Serai Toujours’, and I’m not afraid to admit it. The ubiquitous organ sounds that are a defining element of Dernière Volonté are still present, though they might be too present, fused to every single track like the band felt obliged to include them for continuity’s sake. It’s not that the album departs entirely from the expected sound; ‘Lys et Rose’ is as majestic as anything they’ve ever recorded. Yet, somehow, as a whole, the album feels puzzling.
Among those who aren’t familiar with Dernière Volonté, I think that Prie Pour Moi could be an interesting point of entry. Fans of more overtly retro bands like Automelodi (who share Dernière Volonté’s essential ‘Frenchness’—something which goes beyond the language of the lyrics) would likely find this to be a charming way of incorporating different elements. Given the channels of distribution, the most difficult part of that equation may be getting the album into those listeners’ hands.
Interestingly, I first listened to this album in the company of two fine gentlemen whose opinions on it were less mixed and less charitable than mine. Both of them found that the songs were formulaic and contained too many ‘cute’ elements. (Both of them had heard and liked the band’s previous releases.) So perhaps the changes in sound are moving the band towards becoming the ‘girl’s band’ of the military industrial scene, sort of like Depeche Mode was in the age of alternative pop.
After four years, I’m happy to know that Dernière Volonté is still an active project and I’m not one to criticize signs of growth in an artist. But I find myself adamantly ambivalent about this release overall. It’s not going to occupy a place close to my heart like Le Feu Sacré, but if I hear certain tracks playing, I’m guaranteed to be tapping my foot in time.
02) Les rêves de dorian
03) Sans Fin
04) A Bout Portant
05) Petit Soldat
06) Prie Pour Moi
07) Je Serai Toujours
08) Le Premier Souffle
09) Lys et Rose
10) Après Nous
11) Je n’avais pas compris
12) Sous l’arbre de la vie
14) Dance Macabre