As one of the most punishing live acts ever to emerge from the heavy music landscape, Jucifer presents a real physical challenge to its audience. Frontwoman Amber Valentine uses a wall of amplifiers for a sound so huge, dense, and loud that you're basically guaranteed to damage your hearing if you see them. Valentine's rig also leaves little room for the nuances in her singing to come across, and unfortunately, you can't always hear her vocals clearly. On disc, however, the Georgian two-piece — Valentine and drummer Ed Livengood — has always been a different animal than the sludge behemoth that packs the clubs. Jucifer's studio work sometimes resembles a completely different band — several bands, actually — and the duo makes no bones about spreading its creative wings as far as its imagination can handle. On L'Autrichienne, a derogatory nickname for disgraced 18th-century French monarch Marie Antoinette, Valentine and Livengood take their eclecticism to a new level. Unsurprisingly, L'Autrichienne is chock full of thick psychedelic rock anthems, creeping stoner dirges, all-out metal, and everything in between, threaded together by heavy layering and savvy production. The difference this time is the whiplash you get going from song to song. As always, you either submit to this band or just get out of the way. For those with the stamina to hang on, Jucifer's mournful, ambiguous, but strong imagery pays high dividends. You may not have a clue what Valentine is singing about, but you'll know she means it — and you'll know you're getting your ass kicked. That's for damn sure.
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