When Belgian Rock in Opposition stalwarts Univers Zero concluded the Sonic Circuits Festival in Washington D.C. on Sept. 25, 2010, it was a very different band than the one heard on this 1979 album. What both lineups have in common is drummer Daniel Denis — one of the finest drummers operating in the avant-garde. His elastic sense of time is stunning, but he never looses sight of the pulse that drives most Univers Zero compositions. Denis is also a fine composer, and if his compositional prowess needed a single affirmation, it would be “La Faulx” from Heresie. It was recorded in the middle of 1979, just before guitarist Roger Trigaux left the band to found Present. This reissue sports a bonus track taped in 1975, and if that were the only new feature, hard-core Zero fans would need to hear it. However, as with the rerelease of 1313 a few years ago, Heresie‘s been given a radical remix.
Anything written about the album contains adjectives like “dark” and “brooding.” Denis’ “La Faulx,” clocking in at 25 minutes, is largely responsible for setting the mood with its shuddering moans, gruff incantations and otherworldly growls. All of these ingredients are presented with a new clarity and depth. Where the first seven minutes of the original CD issue immersed the listener in a miasma of harmonium, backwards cymbals and eerie declamations coming over some extraterrestrial public address system, now the immediacy is positively frightening. Guy Segers’ bass has been boosted and deepened beyond easy description, and it has now been unified with Denis’ drums at critical moments, rendering each part more readily audible while unifying the whole texture. The alien rasps that close out the first section are newly effected to detach them further from reality. The album proper’s other tracks have been treated with similar care; according to the booklet, certain blemishes could now be removed in a way that was financially and technically impossible in 1979.
The new reissue’s other revelation is “Chaos Hermetique,” a 12-minute Trigaux piece recorded by a slightly different lineup four years earlier. The 1975 Zero sound is much more electric than on 1313 or Heresie, Denis’ rock drumming driving a mélange of synthesizers, electric guitars, organ and violin. Michel Berckmans’ bassoon, a hallmark of the early Zero sound, is notably absent. The tune is pointillist and punchy in a way that would typify Present’s work for the next 30 years.