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Univers Zero reissue still leaves sonic scars

Univers Zero reissue, "Heresie," remains as unsettling now as its original release in 1979.

Univers Zero
Cuneiform Records (RUNE 313)
Stars: 5


By Michael Popke

“Heresie” – the album that solidified Belgium’s Univers Zero as purveyors of menacing avant-garde music – was released in 1979 by a band that confined one member to a wheelchair strictly for dramatic effect. By crashing oboe, violin, bassoon and harmonium with guitar, drums and bass, Univers Zero made dense, brooding and apocalyptic music that its members claimed was influenced by serial killers. They titled one of three songs here “Jack the Ripper” and described their sound as “funeral marches.”

More than three decades later, that description holds up. “Heresie” is anchored by “La Faulx,” 25 minutes of creepy, slow-building terror. Processed voices speaking in tongues, seemingly from beyond the grave, sound absolutely frightening, thanks to a new remix from the original master tapes that breathes greater clarity into “Heresie” than any previous reissue. A bonus track, “Chaos Hermitique,” dates back to 1975 and is nearly as unsettling as the rest of this album.

New artwork featuring elements from the original packaging and past reissues completes this definitive version of a record that still leaves sonic scars.