By: Owen Coggins

Neige et Noirceur | website | facebook |   

Released on June 24, 2016 via Sepulchral Productions

Already the first two seconds of the first track of Neige et Noirceur’s new album Les Ténèbres Modernes have a dizzying effect caused by the contrast between the juddering blastbeat and the marked, measured, but amazingly gruff vocal entry. The polyrhythmic complexity displayed here makes the album constantly intriguing throughout, a shifting basis for the spacious but cutting riffs. Opener ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ goes onto introduce a good simple seesawing line which moves up through the scale, with some well-placed shriek noises to add a hellish-cathedral touch.

The blastbeats are again just relentless on ‘Battlespirit’, occasionally to the point of muddiness, but I suppose that works well enough with the (great) paint-chipped, rusty guitar tone, as well as the World War 1 concept. I have to say, personally I find historical conflict themes in black metal pretty dull, but if that’s your thing it might add a whole layer to the record. In any case, the crack of metal/maybe gunfire sounds at the end of the track are done well, punching a few holes in the musical layers without collapsing into documentary-soundtrack nonsense. The furthest this is taken is on the soundscape-collage-ambient-thingy ‘Adieux’, which closes the album. In some cases this kind of swooshy incongruence can end up as a self-indulgent act of unwitting sabotage on the part of those black metallers with lofty ambient-classical aspirations, but with this example there’s still enough discordance to fit with the whole. And crucially, it doesn’t take up too much running time at the expense of jagged raging noise!

There’s a great few bits of slowish churning, where what seems like a basic metronomic thump and two-bashes-of-a-chord rhythm is actually underpinned by some subtle harmonic work and those shifting measures, keeping things interesting but powerful in equal proportion. The effect is maybe a little bit stodgy on ‘Felgrau’, but on three short tracks ‘La Saison des Morts’, ‘Post Mortem’ and ‘Des Spectres’ it’s used to brilliantly atmospheric/bludgeoning effect. The last of those three has a great stabbing, jabbing riff over staccato drums, the first is at first a piano lament that then sludges along before a freefall guitar ending. The middle one, ‘Post Mortem’, is a great invocator of raised arms, with bent and stretched notes adding to the intensity of its short march.

‘La Mecanique de Lucifer’ is a great centrepiece for the album, with a surging entrance, again a great distortion sound, and a multi-part structure which makes the whole track seem far more epic than its 6 minutes. There’s some odd shards of sound stabbed in, such as squeaking wonky violins, and then, weirder, a few looped seconds of a very short voice clip, but these are more disorienting than offputting, well fitting the atmosphere of murk and madness.

Constructed with creative mixtures of rhythms and transitions, there’s a consistent blastbeat bedrock, together with effectively ambiguous and sometimes unusual sound effects that melt into the sonic background, and great complex songwriting matched with distinctive vocals. This is a dense and powerful work of vintage black metal.

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