“Don’t Enter!” – Québec Week
“If you are a false, don’t entry!” And if you are a false, do enter, because the only rule of this weekly section, in which we present you three short blurbs on music we are currently listening to, is that we are under no circumstance allowed to press the enter key. All of these little reviews shall thus consist of one paragraph only. The more this rule renders the blurb illegible, the more the writer has failed. Check back every Friday for a fresh haul of Don’t Enter.
Vive le Québec libre! There’s something about this region of North America that makes for a degree of cultural sophistication that is unusual for the region. Or maybe this is just an exotic projection on our behalf, but the fact remains that Quebeckers churn out some delightful black metal. For every time we have mocked USBM on this site, we would gladly counterbalance our derision of the overseas territories by pointing in awe towards bands such as Akitsa, Forteresse and Thesyre. This is why this week on Black Ivory Tower is Québec Week, starting with these here modest reviews but eventually branching out into a deeper exploration of some the region’s fine musical offerings. Remain vigilant, mes amis.
Grimoire – L’aorasie des spectres rêveurs | Québec, 2015
Much like the latest Grimoire EP, this review will be short and to the point. There is an otherworldly purity to L’aorasie, a technicality of execution that renders the music crystalline and enveloping. Seeing as Grimoire is the project of Fiel (Forteresse, Csejthe & Ephemer) this should come as no surprise, he having proven his talent in the Quebec scene for many years. What marks this miniature opus as different though from previous Quebecoise offerings is the spacious production, fantastical atmosphere and highly dynamic song structures which are nothing short of emotive. The painting which adorns the cover (whose creator is also behind the German atmospheric black metal band Trist and a highly acclaimed artist) suggests a mythical or legendary quality to this EP, a journey into some magnificent realm that lies within Fiel. The swirls of male choir, trickling piano lines that highlight majestic and unfolding melodies lain down by the guitars that change from minor to major key all underscore this impression of seeing within the artist’s private realm. The third piece, “Cachot de cristal” demonstrates this wistful delicate splendour perfectly. Transportive, technical, rich and icy in its beauty and precision, L’aorasie is an all too brief glimpse into a fantastical landscape, whose final short piece leaves you mourning its passing. In short, Quebec shows early Alcest how it’s done. |MDL
Gris – À l’âme enflammée, l’âme constellée… | Québec, 2013
Listening to Gris‘s À l’âme enflammée, l’âme constellée… from start to finish takes even longer than typing out the album’s name. A total of 10 songs is evenly spread across 2 CDs, with plenty tracks hitting marks between the 10 and 15 minutes. A gargantuan effort by all means, and it is exactly the sheer size of the beast that makes the biggest impression. Because after delving through this 80-minute opus multiple times, I’m not really sure I “get” it yet. Classical instrumentation serves to enrich the black metal core, but will regularly foray into minutes-long interludes. More often than not, these interludes carry more weight and are thus more engaging than the rather frail black metal it is technically subjected to, and I often find myself longing for these heavenly instrumental breaks (just listen to the first part of the song linked below) whenever they are abandoned for this whole metal ordeal. Despite the carefully construed atmosphere, aesthetic and mystery that have carved this work, a strong whiff of the emotionally lightweight subgenre DSBM permeates À l’âme… whenever it goes into full metal mode. In terms of ambition and technical musicianship Gris really is as good as it gets, but ultimately their work comes across as pretentious, not because “lol, hipsters” but due to the album not having the profound impact implied by its magnificent premise. Do not let my formulation lead you to conclude that I dislike this record, but when everything about this work suggests it should be the best album of the year and it isn’t quite so, disappointment tends to ensue. But, by all means, examine this work for yourself and make your own judgment. |Degtyarov
A Grand Tyranny – Our interview with OT of Akitsa.
Métal noir québécois – Our review of Forteresse‘s 2006 album, from a historical québécois perspective.
Molti nemici, molto onore – Our review of Akitsa‘s 2010 album Au crépuscule de l’espérance.
Abandoning All Hope – Our review of Frozen Shadows‘ 1999 album Dans les bras des immortels.
“Don’t Enter!” – Québec Week – Small reviews of Gris and Grimoire.
I wonder if there’s some kind of Anglosphere vs. Continental Europe culture clash going on with not just USBM but also the “bestial war metal” scene. (Blasphemy, Deströyer 666, Revenge etc) That entire style is extremely niche here in Europe, but appears to be the dominant black metal sound in Anglo-Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc. Consider also that the only groups from that scene to really impress me are its least conventional. (e. g. Axis of Advance)
Which brings us to how Québec black metal groups are almost universally way to Continental European black metal than those from the English-speaking part of the country, in both sound and “cultural outlook”.
I’d say it’s not quite that simple, for example there are Francophone bands in New Brunswick who, though not well known, do not go near the Bestial Blasphemy style stuff. The few well known bands from Nova Scotia (Who are Anglophone ofc), like Pagan Hellfire, also sound more “European”. In Canada at least, the phenomenon of Blasphemy worship seems confined to locations West of Ottawa.
Though now that I think about it, that may make it an Anglo-Saxon thing as you said, seeing as none of the bands mentioned above have WASP members (as far as I know…)
Then there’s the question of where the Latin American and South East Asian bestial war metallers fit into the equation. The former at least tie into the “Old World vs. New World”, but I’m not sure about the latter… probably something with colonialism.