Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Gevurah – Hallelujah! (2016) / 93%

Spreading of the indomitable fire

While their debut was pretty damn good, the debut full length from this Montréal duo defied my expectations as the project improves all their aspects. I believe Hallelujah! established them as the band to beat as far as Québécois black metal is concerned. What's weird is that they manage to crush all their provincial opposition by truly leaving aside the usual tropes we find in this scene. There's no wintery atmosphere, no folk interludes or instruments and no try hard patriotism or nationalism. Nevertheless, one important facet of Québec's ancestral society remains, the attachment to Catholicism and spirituality (made clear by their name taken from the Kabbalah). This religious identity is represented through the occult and evil atmosphere written so eloquently by the two musicians.

The themes of Gevurah are more comparable to Québec’s cousin, France (think of Aosoth), than with their own North American acolytes. There’s also certain influences from the Norwegian or Polish scenes in here. I think that those European scenes really adhere to the “let’s play black metal that’s atmospheric instead of playing atmospheric black metal” doctrine. I mean, even in the instrumental sections of this album, there’s still plenty of riffs to listen to. They never take the easy way out and just write sub par “atmospheric” parts where nothing happens. The riffs are delivered songs after songs even on their epic numbers like the concluding song.

What often distinguished great black metal acts from mediocre ones is the quality of their intentions. Gevurah masters both the musicality and the aesthetics of the genre, the tenebrous feel is one of the best I’ve ever heard and it’s combined with this lush yet totally claustrophobic production. The sound is fully controlled by one half of the band, Xavier handles it like a true professional (well he has his own studio after all). Another accomplished feat in their compositions is the ability to be pummeling while being long-winded, it’s not an easy task to write an almost twenty minutes black metal track without the need to include extraneous genres like funeral doom. At times it’s like if they were The Ruins of Beverast but without the atmospheric doom used by the German solo act. In fact the last track uses Gregorian chant and totally nails this occult yet relaxing part before unleashing the metal riffs to end the nineteen minutes trip into oblivion.

The vocals are deep, cavernous and it’s easy to follow the exceptionally well written lyrics (mixing both English and French). The drumming (X’s main instrument) are thoroughly awesome and he proved that he can play anything since he joined Cauchemar to record one of my other favorite albums of 2016. The guitars are pushing forward many different sorts of moods, from slow but still heavy riffs to dissonant faster moments. Just like the songs, they’re quite varied but never go into an unnecessarily sweet or overly melodic direction.

The superb art of Denis Forkas fits the dark aura emanating from Gevurah’s timeless and graceful black metal like a glove. An essential métal noir album.

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