Thursday, 5 May 2016

Forteresse - Thèmes pour la Rébellion (2016) / 85%

Trilogie noire québécoise

Tome I: 1837-1838

Thanks to Sepulchral Productions for the promo copy

Forteresse, possibly the most famous Québec black metal band, celebrates its 10th year anniversary this year and to celebrate they’re releasing their fifth album on the Québec national holiday, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste. June 24th is certainly a fitting date to release this new opus written by this group of well known nationalists. The band has always stuck to their guns (or muskets) but the formula has changed now and I think it fits the chosen theme.

Their first compositions since the excellent split Légendes released with three of their metal noir brethren, the songs on Thèmes are much more aggressive than before. It’s perhaps their less subtle album to date and this applies both to the musical and the conceptual sides of the album. I think the tragic and violent aspects of the Patriots rebellions of 1837-1838 deserved an added dose of vitriol and that’s exactly what the guys did. The ambient and atmospheric moments have been toned down a lot and there’s a big emphasis on riff-based songs, the tracks hit harder than before and the production is much more clean and complete than it was before since it was produced at the well known Necromorbus Studio in Sweden. Now acting as a full band with four members, you can actually hear the difference in the way the songs are played and composed, it feels more complete and natural. The founding members Athros (vocals) and Moribond (guitars, bass) are once again joined by Fiel (sole member of the excellent Grimoire) and Matrak (Chasse-Galerie, Cantique Lépreux) who adds a second guitar to the mix. The musicianship is top-notch for this kind of métal.

While the guitars are crunchier and faster than before, Forteresse still manage to write compelling songs full of atmosphere but nevertheless, the ambient personality of the band has been replaced by this sort of epic black metal identity. The line between epic and atmospheric/ambient is sort of abstract and arbitrary. The solid mix and mastering definitely helped them to achieve their vision for this patriotic album.

A concept often linked to epicness is cheesiness and I do think Forteresse were always on the cheesier side of black metal with their olde tyme violin samples (such as the ones on Métal noir québécois. While there’s no violins or folk elements on Thèmes, there’s still some fermented milk to be found. Le sang des héros starts with a sample about the Rébellions from Épopée en Amérique, a great documentary that I’ve actually used to teach Québec history in my classes. I thought it was quite funny but it’s an anecdotal and personal experience, I guess!

There’s an overarching theme throughout the album and it’s related to the illustration in which we see Québec City in flames. The way I’m interpreting the cover art is that they used the 1760 conquest of New France by the British as a prelude to the rébellions of the 1830s. During the album, we’re served samples of fiery winds and the whole excellent ambient outro ending the sad and tragic tale recalling this sombre period of Québec’s history is strong winds intertwined with delicate keys, one of the sole soothing moments on this busy, intense record.

All in all, it’s difficult to say where I’d place this album in Forteresse’s discography, while I think Thèmes would benefit from more variety, it’s surely their tightest and most cohesive work to date

The band will release the album in Québec City with Cantique Lépreux (Tome III of this series) and Délétère in June. I'm possibly planning a roadtrip to go see that.
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