For many, parting from a decidedly modern sounding aesthetic of black metal, especially if you’re an aficionado of fresh purveyors of grimness, is an unmistakably difficult notion, though some will obviously be more induced by old school characteristics rather than the voluptuous, youthful material that they seem to be fed up with. My point is that every now and then we need to delve into our wretched, raw past, not necessarily by traditional means but usually through the musical skills of newer acts, so that we may have a larger scope of the scene around us. However, bear in mind that this little rule has been applied to the black metal tag for demonstrative purposes and not anything else (Like death metal; we already have more bands than we can handle in that area). The subjects here are the recent Quebecois frantic Neige Eternelle, yet another desolate, somnolent cascade of mourn doused in French titles coming from the Montreal black metal imprint Sepulchral Productions; a group of murderously cunning entrepreneurs who caught my attention with a flurry of excellent releases as effortlessly and slicing molten butter.
The Canadians aren’t brand-new, but they’re still pretty young, having formed in 2008 and having solely one demo and a live album at their belt. However, their self-titled debut album is perhaps the most unmitigated, spectrally abusive records I’ve heard in a long time, tracing its original aspects to the early efforts of the second wave of Norwegian black metal, imbued with a carnal, frosting ferocity that could be related to the savage, sluggish antics of early proto-black metal acts or seminal black/thrash works from the late 80s. If I had to give rough description of their swollen, frigid complex of riffs and atmospheric tenets, I’d say it’s a cross between some early Burzum recordings, Darkthrone circa 1992-1994, Ragnarok’s ‘’Arising Realm’’ and Ulver’s ‘’Nattens Madrigal…’’, with a frenzied splash of early Sodom thrown in for a good measure. Of course, with its influences so blatantly rooted to the early and much-lauded examples of black metal, you’d hardly expects ‘’Neige Eternelle’’ to be the eccentric, majestic beast of modernity, but with a terrific sense of agonized, demented riffing and dilapidated production values supporting the stark contrast between real life and the gelid, cavernous imagery created by the aural textures of this album, you could do no wrong entering to this haunted cavern, the antithesis of a warm and inviting amenity.
The riffs are utterly unremitting and compellingly fierce, roiling amongst a wall of charnel noise. Pick any track from the presented 8, and I guarantee you’ll be experiencing the final glimpses of light of a man trapped in some primordial den that’s about to collapse from the pressure of multiple ice stalagmites, some unmentioned burrow from the Mountains of Madness. Despite the minuteness of the influence spectrum, the riffs are abrasive and they don’t give a fuck about what you think; bouncing off a hidden mountain burial ground and striking you with voracious, static tenacity. Give the patterns that are constantly followed and simplistic chord progressions, there isn’t even much innovation in the riffing, yet, as stated, the pouring lament and mourn make you forget the sheer lack of sophistication nearly the entire time. The howling, raucous vocals are great in the least, and sometimes morph into these horrific wolf howls which echo alongside the misfortunate guidance of the somber wind.
Perhaps individually there’s not much to scrutinize, but introspecting the entire 43 minute span of this record is a truly rewarding experience. There were some minor hindrances that escaped even the densest gatherings of anguish, and admittedly this is not the best black metal I’ve heard this year, but Neige Eternelle (which, by the way, translates into eternal snow, a very fitting moniker) is driven with a pure and ferocious candor that has been solidly executed. The prolonged stinging of the vocals kept me constantly stimulated and irritated (in a good way), and the riffs themselves are hypnotically cold enough to bury me in a six feet deep grave of snow. Through its successes and minor miscalculations, ‘’Neige Eternelle’’ is a goodly pick for Sepulchral Productions and a record worthy of any old school black metal enthusiast’s attention and unflinching fervor. I'm sure nobody was expecting this to be some soothing jazz medley, judging by the album art and album title, but still, when you enter, there’s no way of attaining salvation. Hiding in the frost-peppered forest will only postpone your demise. Doleful, winter-beaten revulsion.
Cri de Guerre
L'appel de la Mort
Pluie de Coteaux