Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sombre Forets - La Mort Du Soleil [2013]

As if my first impressions on the two new promos delivered by Montreal imprint Sepulchral Productions wasn't positive enough, the label has beset me a further addendum of bleak, desiccating black metal from the unexplored, and undeniably frosty dins of Quebec. The former releases I heard from the record label were both very strong releases; ''Lys Noir'', a tempestuous maelstrom of doleful pain, and the eponymous debut by Neige Eternelle, and even rawer contemplation of some of the grimmest of landscapes, however, the fresh material by Sombre Forets has distilled more than any of them. Sombre Forets, which translates into dark forests in French, explores the bleakest corners of mid 90's Norwegian black metal and the distressing frameworks of Leviathan and Xasthur, though I was shocked to hear that the man behind the entire, astonishing orchestration, Annatar, was able to insert a desolate, unforgiving and ultimately fresh sense of originality into the mixture, forming a disturbingly remote weaving of guitar riffs and other aural additions which render the album so frighteningly real. ''La Mort Du Soleil'' is a brilliant soundtrack for a solitary gaze into a frosty nightscape...

In truth, inconsistency is the key to ''La Mort Du Soleil''. Not having listened to the band's previous outings, I don't know whether this is a distinct style Annatar has constantly displayed throughout his backlog of works, but as far as this record is concerned, the structural preferences render it the one most queerly eccentric records in black metal. Surely, ambient passages and their random distribution is nothing of a novelty; in fact, it's been done for as long as black metal can remember (excluding early proto-black metal), but the actual guitar work is jointed flawlessly, and often incoherently with the soundscapes, piano passages, and ambient sounds, eventually weaving a world of sorrow and emotional catharsis which I am, even after countless spins, uncertain of. The listener is swallowed up into the somber entity, which is depicted in the mesmerizing cover art that I can only relate to Necrovation's self titled sophomore in its ways of showcasing the gushing, ebbing motions of the wallowing tides, rocking dolefully amid a momentous storm, but ''the destruction of the sun'' is so utterly convincing in its thematic display that even the vague glow of the sun among the swirling ocean tides is simply too bright.

Yet, in spite of all the haunting beauty, there lies a problem. There is always a problem. The harsh truth is that ''La Mort...'' is too inconsistent to be fully effective. The riffs are great when they are unleashed upon the listener; mirages of harrowing, discomforting chord sequences and intense, moody tremolo barrages, and constructed with complete avidity and savvy, and I'm not even excluding the less transparent open chord progressions that seem to sway along with the many grievous facets of the ambient passages, but such moments of intensity and action are, unfortunately less frequently exhibited than the ambient sequences themselves. This leaves a huge, tiring gap in the very middle of the album. The terrific winter-assaults of ''Brumes'' and ''La Disparition'' kept me wanting for more, substantial material that I could actually grasp, but so many of the other tracks disappointed me with their lack of mobility and adherence that I felt as though I was drowning in a forgotten void of snow, a multitude of ice shards craving holes in my torso simultaneously.

In all, listening to this record was a bitch for me. For the most part, it was like a game of Scrabble. I rarely had the letters I could utilize to form a proper word offensive to throw my opponent off guard, but when I was lacking in useful letters, the entire articulate quality of my game felt like it was destroyed, and I continually kept reaching for the letter-pouch, hoping to acquire a letter that would somehow be useful. The guitars were simply perfect, as I described them above, and the eerie, echoing vocals of Annatar is a bleak howling of wind that pervades the entire storm-ridden ocean portrayed in the cover art. The overall instrumentation is incredibly thick and suffocating, with not a moment where the dying sun showed me a last glimmering spark. Not a single moment. I always kept my fingers crossed for something big, something that would make the entire album the near-flawless masterpiece I expected it would turn out to be, but to no avail. However, all is not in vain, folks. Connoisseurs of atmospheric black metal who are into deep, emotionally engaging moments of aural misery will adore this, and as for me, I certainly liked it, but I would have loved it to death if it weren't for those long, jaded periods of boredom.

Etrangleurs de Soleils
La Disparition

Rating: 77,5%

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