Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Existe – Esprit sensible, monde fragile (2016) / 85%

Post-raw existential crisis

This band started by Cyril Tousignant is another vivid example of how good the Québec black metal is and how diversified it is nowadays. Now a quartet, Existe unleashed their debut album in late July and it's a strong hybrid of post, black, punk and depression.

I remember being conflicted about their 2013 EP Et de longs passages douloureux pour une harmonie recherchée. It was an underproduced effort with a lack of direction and compared to this new oeuvre, the post rock/ambient side was more important. Esprit sensible, monde fragile (Sensitive spirit, Fragile World) see the band move towards a more metal direction, now more influenced by Lifelover than the lighter side of Alcest. Nevertheless, Existe still plays a fairly diverse style full of nuances and hooks.

The album starts with a non metal track with acoustic guitars but the screams of Tousignant are downright bone chilling and are certainly a good example of the type of singing we find in depressive black metal. After this somewhat long overture, the record moves in many directions but it's always done in a cohesive way. From the punk approach of the oddly named "/!\" to the aggressive yet atmospheric black metal of "Les fleurs fanées" or "Surpopulation humaine" (and its superb shoegaze ending), it does everything well. It's hard to say what is their stylistic core, it's much more raw than most post-black, much more emotionnal charged than most traditional black metal evolving in the obscurity. The vocals, mixing harsh tones, soft spoken words and some chanting (listen to "Anxieuse"), are all in French and they're singing evocative yet sad lyrics.

Mes yeux sont grand ouvert mais mon cerveau est flou

There's a certain richness in Existe's instrumentation, it's not only focused on the guitars, the bass is thundering, overly present and really damn enjoyable. That's something uncommon for black metal. It's probably the hardcore punk influences giving a larger focus to the rythmn section as it's more often the case in punk. Furtermore, the integration of unorthodox metal instruments such as the clarinet (end of track seven) or pianos (outro) are small but pleasant touches giving the album an expanded identity.

The guitars are well crafted and the adequate production job highlights all the instruments. It's able to be both subtle and complex at the same time (see the instrumentally inclined and beautiful "Frivole"). The post rock from the previous EP is mostly gone but it remains there in spirit inside these tightly knit songs and this short but sweet album.

It's post-black with an uncompromising heavy attitude and no meandering long-winded explorations. The trip is kept brief, to the point and carefully present itself as a midway point between depressive black and post-whatever. It sometimes enters the post-hardcore realms just to borrow some elements, some attitude and come back with a stronger feel. Just like the El-Ahrairah full length (the best black album of 2016), the successful combination of emotions through raw black metal power makes this album an unknown jewel.

Free download but a limited run of self-released CDs are gonna be available soon.

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