If it weren’t for Champollion and the Rosetta Stone, who knows how much we would know today about the already hazy history of Egypt. The mystery of the first female pharaoh, Nitocris, is even greater, about which only Herodotus and Manetho give more information, but Egyptologists still cannot find confirmation of this mystery attributed to the end of the Sixth Dynasty and the dramatic story of this unusual woman who avenged her brother. she eventually sacrificed herself.
The French progressive power metal band members did their best to make an effort for us through the concept album through an absolutely musical and textually flawless and perfectly done message, literally as if on a movie screen they conjure up this unusual story.
Writing a concept album is not an easy task and many do not succeed. I rarely like concept albums in heavy metal music and one of my favorites not only when it comes to these ways of musical expression are e.g. King Diamond’s Abigail and Them, then Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Operation Mindcrime, and a few other ones. Worth mentioning Mislpaced Childhood, Queen II, Welcome to My Nightmare, or Camel’s The Snow Goose. I can freely say that for many reasons Part 0 – Nitocris, The Queen with Golden Hair is one of the best releases in 2021 on my list of top 10 albums for the previous year, although released at the very end of 2020. The vinyl edition was released in 2021. When it comes to concept albums this is, I would dare say one of the albums of the decade and maybe more. Indeed, with incredible effort and knowledge, Amon Sethis managed to visualize the story of Nitocris, which is quite difficult for many writers of historical novels or film directors who are often not historically consistent in their interpretations. Knowledge of the subject, deep research, musical perfection, ancient Egyptian in certain segments, plot and unfolding … as a historian and a decades-long consumer of heavy metal it did not leave me indifferent, on the contrary, I listened to this album breathlessly countless times after receiving it for review from my team. This is one of those albums where you can’t single out just one song as your favorite. There’s a whole opus that must put the album in context and the album is a logical sequel of their 2009 EP – The Final Struggle and previous full-length albums. It is even more interesting because the bass guitarist Laëtitia Bertrand is a French progressive metal Nitocris, who is amazing for her instrument.
The intro The Legacy From the Past tells a dramatic story through a great instrumental, I wouldn’t say completely oriental, then vocal melodies, children’s cries, more than likely depicting the birth of Nitocris. All of this is backed by the sounds of the desert wind and relaxed orchestrations. What made me jaw-dropped was a female voice speaking in ancient Egyptian. I guess it should be the wife of Pharaoh Pepi the Second and mother of Nitocris. A phenomenal introduction!
After the positive astonishment I experienced at the very beginning, the story begins to unravel Nitocris, The Queen With Golden Hair and My Sister, My Love, My Pharaoh through the words of Nitocris’ brother and husband when the conspirators poisoned and who joined the ancestors in the world of the dead but sends a message to his dear sister. Great melodies and orchestrations spiced with a bit of oriental sound, darbuka-like percussions, progressive prog. metal in the style of Symphony X or Fairyland whose songs I incredibly enjoy. The singer did a masterful job of giving life to lyrics that are extremely difficult to compose, and that runs through the entire album. It is worth noting that each member of the band is the absolute pharaoh of his instrument throughout the album. And again, ancient Egyptian as a special spice! A change of faster and slower rhythms, fantastic melodies, rhythm sections, choirs, piano parts, clean guitars, guitars extremely well layered … the story of Merenre, Nitocris’s brother!
Conspiracy brings an extraordinary bass line, guitar passages, drama that is occasionally evoked by keyboards, piano, super well-done guitar sound, and playing in the function of the plot twist. It follows an extraordinary guitar shift to a faster tempo in the part “the rebels will scream” … a movie! Court intrigues, the fight of court clans, jealousy, lust for power… and again ancient Egyptian with mystical piano melodies and percussion !!!
The Secret Letter – fantastic music layers, guitar passages, bassline dominates in some parts, superbly dosed drums, great syncopated riffs from time to time, atmosphere a la Concepcion, Symphony X, Fairyland, and why not to mention Myrath … The truth is revealed !! Nitocris has discovered the conspiracy but is still in danger. It is interesting how much the band members researched details, names … The Rise of Aoutef’s Army continues with fiercer riffs, vocal, and guitar bravura performances and orchestrations, symphonic parts, unexpected rhythmic twists, great works of a drummer Sébastien Perrad.
A similar recipe continues in the Libyan desert in the song Lost in the West. It is a bit Myrath-Esque song with Julien Tournod‘s vocals reminiscent at times of late Shadow Gallery’s Mike Barker, depicting the allegorical birth of Seth and Osiris. The occasional growls of Julien and brilliantly done female vocals in Desert Storm, Osiris God of the Dead, Mask of Wrath, and By the Torture add to the whole atmosphere. Let’s be clear, in some parts of the album, Hollywood’s reasoning of ”ancient Egyptian” melodies runs from time to time. I don’t see any other way to make such fantastic orchestrations a little bit ”cheesy” by different musical solutions.
Mask of Wrath and By the Torture abound in Symphony X-Esque prog. power metal sound of Olivier Billint‘s guitars. Short twin guitar parts are carefully played. Shifts in the vocal pitches are regular. The voice of Nitocris promises Taharka that he will die. Revenge is done and Nitocris is ready to join her brother and husband in the afterlife during the song Blood red Temple. This is followed by a great piano introduction and beautifully done intimacy in the form of the ballad Eternal Love. We should not abstract the fact that the writers of the lyrics observed from the perspective of the life of the ancient Egyptians, especially the ruling lineage so that at the same time the sister was a wife as a part of dynastic marriages in ancient Egypt.
The scene of Nitocris’ revenge on his brother’s killers is described spectacularly as she opens the flood gates. Great lyrics and musical passages in the song From Dust to the Stars evoke a feeling of confusion, shouts are heard, breathlessness, and anguish. Dramatic and occasionally melancholic synth passages at the end of the song turn into soothing melodies in the bonus track And Then Comes the Rain.
Wow! What a story told through a great musical opus! This is an album not only for progressive metal bon vivant but also for any headbanger par excellence. If the times were happier Amon Sethis would give a special flavor to the stage presence using proper iconography and making a real deal of their live shows. Until then, let’s enjoy reviving the lost page of history. Well done, guys!
Bass : Laëtitia Bertrand
Guitar : Olivier Billoint
Keyboards : Benjamin Naire
Drums : Sébastien Perrad
Vocals : Julien Tournoud
Residence: Grenoble,Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France