Monday, 6 April 2015

Basalte – Vestige (2014) / 85%

Black rock? Nope, atmospheric black metallic alloy!

Basalte is a young three piece (2 guitarists and a drummer) from Montréal and like many newcomers (see Entheos or Gevurah) to the scene, they explore a different black metal perspective than we're used to. The “Métal noir québécois” is/was usually all about grimness, how winter is so fucking harsh and long, nationalism (both observed from a left or right wing point of view) and forests/nature. These subjects while fun and all can be identified as conservative and, ultimately a tad boring (see Chasse Galerie). It's always a plus when your scene can diversify itself and release some original and enjoyable black metal. That's the case with Vestige.

The voluntarily lack of bass in their music is pretty interesting and pretty much a non-issue as the two guitarists make up for it with their intertwined interactions and the very feelsy approach they have. One of the guitarists is a music student and, from an uninformed and non musician opinion, I think it's apparent in Basalte's music since they have the “less is more” ideological stance. It's intricate without being spastic, overly complex material that's dissonant for the sake of trendy opportunism. Their songs are lengthy (almost 40 minutes with only 3 tracks) and there's certainly a lot of atmospheric work going on but instead of relying on Cascadian influences, it's more on a sort of post black metal sound rooted on urban decay (see Altar of Plagues, an obvious influence both musically and thematically). This aspect of their music is showcased with the eerie concrete ruins picture (taken by a band member) used to illustrate the album. The shattered pillars are a good metaphor for the sound of this album, it may seem all over the place and with certain weaknesses but it still stands and let the light through.

Willing to include nods to a lot of different genres, mostly non metal ones like post-hardcore, shoegaze,
jazz (mostly in the drumming) or post rock, Basalte still a pretty restrained manner and relies on subtle and methodical songwriting methods that are a given if you want to write compelling long compositions like they did.

There's not a lot of vocals here but the dark philosophical lyrics are delivered in an array of interesting types including dissonant black/death (think Mitochondiron) and a type of metallic post hardcore shouting that could be higher in the mix in my opinion. The three members are also taking turns handling the microphone duty but it's nowhere near problematic, quite the opposite really. The sound seems to be uniform at first but this is probably due to the cohesive and well written quality of their music since there's a certain variety found throughout the plethora of interesting riffs.

While the production could be tighter, its relative rawness is enjoyable and airy and fits their genre well. For a self produced debut, it's quite well done, the guitars are incisive, the drums while a bit distant are urgent. Also, as mentioned, the lack of bass is irrelevant since they're not relying on blistering heaviness but more on distinguished emotions and evocative abnormal yet sometimes familiar black metal melodic guitar riffs. Finally, it has some depressive black metal vibes from time to time to complete the thorough mix of genres.

Vestige is a strong effort for this promising young trio and I'm certainly expecting great things from them in the near future.
It's original atmospheric black metal with interesting twists and vivid interpretations. So put on a good pair of headphones
and explore the Montréal decayed urban remains with them.

Montréal music fans should come see them live as they'll play a lot this summer. Toronto metal fans should also go see them in June at the Briefcasefest alongside bands like Sortilegia, Akitsa or IRN. Furthermore, the full length is available for free/pay what you can on Bandcamp and also as a tape, released by Productions Haineuses.

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