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My Own Private Alaska - "Amen" (CD)

My Own Private Alaska - "Amen" CD cover image

"Amen" track listing:

1. Anchorage
2. After You
3. Die For Me
4. Broken Army
5. My Girl
6. I Am An Island
7. Amen
8. Kill Me Twice
9. Page Of A Dictionary
10. Just Like You And I
11. Ode To Silence

Reviewed by on April 7, 2010

"When I think rock and roll, Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones come to mind, not sobbing-in-the-bathtub noise laments."

Need a soundtrack for your depression? Feeling like nothing goes your way? Maybe your life is unfair, and everyone else treats you like crap? Well finally things are turning around – My Own Private Alaska (MOPA) has just the music for you! Classical piano, muscle-bound jazz drumming, and throat rending screams combine to eleven bleak songs that will sing your depressed soul to sleep.

My Own Private Alaska is another French experimental export, and this trio nails their philosophy on life over and over again. More about the lyrical content and overall feeling of despair than the actual component parts, MOPA creates songs that are just barren of any positivity at all. Album opener “Anchorage” sees a lilting piano line convert into a frenzied drum and piano combo with frantic yells, screams, and complaints over it. And this is the positive song on the album. “After You” starts with an interesting groove, but soon descends into the same cacophonous morass as all the others.

The individual performances are noteworthy, however. Pianist Tristan Mocquet alternates between pretty scales and spaced-out chord progressions. Drummer Yohan Hennequin follows suit, seamlessly moving between jazzy feather drumming and more a-rhythmic poundings. And vocalist Matthieu “Milka” Miegeville sounds like he is five minutes from slitting his wrists the entire time. These three take their intense individual performances and combine together to form an awful message of despair.

This isn’t the run of the mill black metal despair either – this is true self-mutilation despair. The songs are mostly about unrequited or undeserved love, loneliness, and the sad state of the world in general. My Own Private Alaska offers glimmers of hope through momentary beauty or synchronized grooves, but always return to the noise-and-bang of their depressive wailing.

The media press kit says “French innovators MOPA (My Own Private Alaska) might be the band to save rock and roll.” Well they probably are innovators, but when I think rock and roll, Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones come to mind, not sobbing-in-the-bathtub noise laments. The music itself is complex, challenging, and interesting, and definitely worth multiple listens for the musically inclined. But the overwhelming depression can’t be escaped, and makes the whole album a huge downer. If you are feeling particularly down one day, or enjoy things that are depressing in general, than My Own Private Alaska is for you. Otherwise stick to Blind Guardian.

Highs: “Die For Me” is a beautiful ballad interrupted by awful vocal disruption, and the counter-point is fantastic.

Lows: The album is so depressing it is almost unlistenable.

Bottom line: French experimentalists have created the most depressing album of the year.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)