Thursday, 5 May 2016

Neige et Noirceur – Les ténèbres modernes (2016) / 88%

Trilogie noire québécoise

Tome II: 1914-1918

Thanks to Sepulchral Productions for the promo copy

Neige et Noirceur has been one of the most interesting bands in the Québec black metal underground since its inception in 2005 and the solo project has seen its fair share of evolution throughout the years. After a decade or so, gone are the extra long ambient explorations the project was known for (such as the excellent "La seigneurie des loups"), this album is a compact experience and it works very well. Their previous album, the occult "Gouffre onirique et abîmes cosmiques" was already showcasing signs of streamlined compositions and, in my opinion, the 2014 release could be seen as a transitional effort, albeit a strong one.

Even though the lyrical theme and concept of Les ténèbres modernes (The Modern Darkness) aren't quite on the original side as far as historical approaches are concerned, the band really managed to craft an interesting, captivating and in-depth observation of World War I and its numerous complexities. The intent was to write a highly mechanical album in relation to the chaotic aspects of the Great War, which was one of the first truly modern conflicts of importance.

Tracks like “Walpurgis 1917” are recalling the tank-like energy of Marduk at their fastest but even if the traditional black metal identity has a larger place on this album than on their previous ones, they’re still not a “normal” band for their genre. During the forty minutes trip back to 1914-1918, we’ve served numerous ambient, experimental moments with a wide array of tactics such as alarms, industrial bits (the song “Felgrau”), voices in German or French (the spectacular outro “Adieux” with its insane violin samples). I can definitely see a similarity with the French band N.K.V.D. as they also mixed war history with black metal and industrial touches. The second half of the album really goes into an insane, demented direction and I think that’s a good analogy for the first World War. People were saying that the war would be short (three or four months) but it lasted a thunderous and violent four years, the life in trenches made the soldiers mad and the mustard gas were suffocating them and the insanity of Neige et Noirceur’s conceptual music only grew in intensity till you’ve reached the end of their essay.

The vocals of guest vocalist Chimère Noire (artist for Portal, Phobocosm, Abyssal...) are deeper and more cavernous than those of sole composer known as Sion Daus on this album, I’d say that they’re one of the most accessible (accessible as far as black metal is concerned!) aspects of the music showcased here. The production is just raw enough, a clean one would had not been adequate for the songwriting and thematics, it needed to have some dirt.
While they were mostly writing about Québec’s heritage viewed with occultism and darkness (such as nationalist hymn “Croix de feu, croix de fer” back in 2010), I feel this new full length has this international vibe that could really help them gain more (well deserved) exposure. Even if the material could be viewed as more marketable and less epic, it’s no less ground breaking and worthwhile. Neige et Noirceur has written their most violent and interesting album to date.

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