Black metal was not born as a genre that easily allow musicians to come up with original variations.
France was the one place where bands were capable of adding ever new ideas to the paradigm.
Peste Noire's originality on
K.P.N./ La Sanie Des Siecles - Panegyrique De La Degenerescence
(2006) lay in the ability to mix blastbeats with all sorts of alternative scaffoldings.
After the brief overture of Nous Sommes Fanes, a waltzing Kurt Weill-ian skit,
the album delves into Le Mort Joyeux,
mixing blast-beats and "slapping" country rhythm
while the vocalist screams out of his head instead of growling like tradition
demands. Suddenly the guitar intones a majestic melody and then launches into
a frantic gallop, thus bestowing an epic quality to the macabre vocals.
But Laus Tibi Domine, instead, is a moribund litany in which the guitar
simulates a funeral fanfare.
The guitar riff of Spleen could be in a song of melodic hard-rock,
and the vocalist's scream gets as "poppy" as it can.
The twelve-minute Phalenes Et Pestilence - Salvatrice Averse
begins with an acoustic guitar solo reminiscent of Renaissance music before
venturing into a rhythmic journey of sorts:
a madcap trotting rhythm mutates into a solemn rhythm that then morphs into
childish banging. The music is clearly serving a cinematic purpose, and
continues to alternate between different moods.
After a melancholy pause, it is again a simple melody by the acoustic guitar
that starts the final crescendo. The rhythm picks up again, ending
in a wild hoedown.
At last, an unbridled metal guitar spirals out of control in
Retour De Flamme (Hooligan Black Metal); but, again, the music
twists and pivots in all sorts of manners while paying tribute to the
masters of black metal.
The best melody, again played by the acoustic guitar and again inspired by
ancient music, probably surfaces in
Dueil Angoisseus (Christine De Pisan, 1362-1431),
and the guitar plays it over and over again against the backdrop of
distortions and screams, like an angel flying over hell.
Des Medecins Malades Et Des Saints Sequestres is the one piece that
boasts panzer-grade intensity. It proceeds at a martial rhythm, more
interested in crafting a lugubrious atmosphere than in unleashing punishing
sounds. Even at the end, when it becomes a devilish instrumental,
it is more focused on mood than on violence.
FolkFuck Folie (2007) sounded like leftovers from the previous albums,
and mostly short ones (the longest piece is just seven minutes).
After L'Envol Du Grabataire (Ode A Famine) for crows and guitar,
the band carries out its routine of creative metal in a series of faceless
songs, all fury and little brain.
Condamne A La Pondaison (Legende Funebre) redeems the uneventful first
half with one of their typical chamaleon-like cinematic excursions.
It takes forever to start, but then Maleicon intones a solemn hymn.
Amour Ne M'amoit Ne Je Li does even better, with a quasi-waltzing
guitar melody and desperate vocals over relentless drums.
A new peak of violence is achieved by Paysage Mauvais (Bonus Track),
but the band fails to capitalize on the electricity they create.
Mors Orbis Terrarum (2007)
collects all their recordings not included in of their two proper albums, notably
their demo Aryan Supremecy (2001).
La Sale Famine,
also active as Valfunde, was the only surviving member of the
original Peste Noise line-up on
Ballade Cuntre Lo Anemi Francor (De Profundis, 2009), that delivered
their most complex and idiosyncratic
Unfortunately, it did not pursue
some great ideas that were left unfinished as short pieces
(Concerto Pour Cloportes,
Vespre, Requiem Pour Nioka).
There are other missed opportunities. For example,
Rance Black Metal De France uses a folk singalong as a launching pad
for a demonic hoedown. Not knowing what to do with it, the music stops and
restarts as a tamer jam propelled by power riffs worthy of southern-boogie
Where it works, however, the album ranks with their best material.
La Mesniee Mordrissoire pulls out a grotesque drunk singalong
(worthy of a Kurt Weill musical) from a swamp of distorted riffs and
One of their most poignant compositions,
Ballade Cuntre Les Anemis De La France - De Francois Villon
takes inspiration from medieval music but then twists the leitmotiv
to become a loose blues-rock jam supporting the raspy narrative (a far cry
from the screams and growls of the past).
Neige was also active as Amesoeurs and Alcest.
Alcest, in particular, coined a new subgenre of black metal
with the "poppy" and noisy single Le Secret/ Elevation (2005 - Prophecy, 2011).
Alcest's first album
Souvenirs D'Un Autre Monde (Prophecy, 2007) turned out to be
one of the great shoegazing albums of the time.
The protracted crashing solemn agonizing riff Printemps Emeraude is the
launching pad for a vocal melody that rises like a religious hymn, which in
turn propels the guitar to intone an even more majestic distortion,
one of the most uplifting shoegaze anthems of all times.
An equal moving pathos is secreted in
Souvenirs D'Un Autre Monde, created by another explosion of guitar
feedback but this time for a gentle whispered elegy (at one point even reduced
to just a dreamy "la-la-la").
The more incandescent and frenzied Les Iris exhales a more delicate
transcendent ethereal wordless mantra, further decoupling sound and melody.
The shifting textures and dynamics of the previous songs verge on
post-rock in the slightly brainier Ciel Errant.
The jarring edges are further explored in
Sur L'Autre Rive Je T'Attendrai, whose lengthy instrumental part is
purely atmospheric and almost impressionistic.
The finale, instead, returns to the simpler format: a
much more traditional singsong Tir Nan Og that soars into an
electronic new-age melody.
This impeccable album distilled the romantic essence of shoegazing, almost
removing its original psychedelic foundations.
Ecailles De Lune (Prophecy, 2010) is titled after its main suite, the
Ecailles De Lune. The first movement is actually comprised of sub-movements. It begins as a rather traditional psychedelic ballad, but then implodes into
an introverted guitar solo, and finally explodes into a frenzied finale.
The second movement surprisingly resurrects Neige's roots and begins in the
vein of magniloquent hysterical black metal. This too implodes, this time in
a fragile folk lullaby, which in turn slowly decomposes into abstract
Percees De Lumiere (the real standout) is another slab of black metal vocals but spaced out
like in Pink Floyd's soundtrack More.
Solar Song, the only song that continues the shoegazing program of the
first album, is a bit too poppy and dreamy to stand out on its own and the fat
guitar that reinforce it are not enough.
The eight-minute acoustic ballad Sur L'Ocean Couleur De Fer is a
disturbing detour that might presage a more commercial future.
L'Ordure A L'Etat Pur (Rosenkrantz, 2011), featuring chanteuse
Audrey Sylvain, found Peste Noire in a nihilistic mood, but the music
couldn't be more alive. From the very beginning
Casse Peches Fractures Et Traditions is full of suspense and drama:
the instruments intone a medieval dance while a growling drunk character
yells his grievances. Then song unveils riffs and singing, but they are
still hostile and macabre. After five minutes an intermezzo of circus horns
and accordion folk song creates the launching pad for a totally different
manic attack. This one morph into a comically frantic musichall skit, although
supported by homicidal heavy-metal guitars. Sounds from the farm briefly
interrupt what now sounds like a goofy Balkan dance.
The epileptic threnody of Cochon Carotte Et Les Sours Crotte pivots
around childish blastbeats and even dubstep beats, and ends with a grotesque
The 20-minute J'avais Reve Du Nord open with a chaotic cinematic
sequence of found noise and found voices over a dancing guitar riff. Then
the contralto Sylvain intones a gentle song and the acoustic guitar meditates
alone. But immediately the demonic growl and the frantic headbanging take over
and annihilate the peaceful atmosphere. However, the acoustic guitar continues
to emit a melodic theme, a faint signal of surviving humanity. In fact, the
contralto returns to dominate the stage with another baroque tune.
The seven minutes of the second part morph from black metal to a loud
The metamorphoses undergone by these pieces border on the surreal:
six minutes into Sale Famine Von Valfoutre, the instruments get into
an orgasmic feedback loop and reemerge into a different song that eventually
rides away in a country-rocking gallop.
The philosophical conclusion of the album, La Condi Hu ("the human condition"),
is a whispered doom-blues prayer that within three minutes turns into a
torrential demonic howl over terrifying guitar chords. The singing reveals
both desperation and anger, and the guitar begins to sound like a death toll.
The album is a giant fresco of hopelessness and alienation,
a brutal documentary of collective decomposition.
Alcest's Les Voyages de l'ame (2012) feels like an introduction to
Alcest for those who missed the previous offerings of their
The solemn hymn of
Autre Temps (not too far from Scorpions and the like)
is Alcest for mass consumption.
On the positive side,
the improved production values bring out the introverted and spiritual core
of Niege's music, especially in the ethereal wordless chanting of
Beings of Light pummeled by infernal blast-beats,
perhaps the most creative detour of the album.
The mystical tones of the opener resurface in the
nine-minute La Ou Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles, a case of
slo-core with burning guitars, a piece that has time to evolve along a dramatic
plot, with a burst (or, better, blast) of black metal and a pastoral intermezzo
before the incendiary ending; the Stairway to Heaven of shoegazing metal.
Then comes Les Voyages De L'Ame, another folkish litany (but even
slower) laid bare over a bed of loud guitar distortion with a strong melodic
By the time Niege hums Nous Sommes L'Emeraude, we got the point, and
can predict which way the music will move. He has exhausted the directions
where he can run with his idea (mixing black metal and shoegaze-rock).
Faiseurs De Mondes tries to rescue the concept with a theatrical
interplay of desperate growls and ecstatic wails
The most obvious power-ballad, Summer's Glory, a skeletal tune attached
to dense whirling guitar arrangements,
is much closer to
Cocteau Twins' dream-pop than to, say,
My Bloody Valentine.
Too simplified to retain the dramatic power of the
Souvenirs D'Un Autre Monde, this album marks the end of the
unlikely experiment and the beginning of the dignified monetization.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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