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Quebecois seperatist black metal is practically becoming its own ideological genre ala NSBM (no direct comparison intended, of course), and with big-name bands like Akitsa preaching it, brother, I don't doubt that in the oncoming years we'll start to acquire some sort of cute acronym (QNBM, maybe) to describe it. Hell, if Red Anarchist Black Metal can actually be A Thing these days, why not this? At least the Quebecois are making better music- inconsistent, but undeniably BETTER, and Brume D'Automne is one of the more interesting bands from such a field. It's sculpted pretty much from the elements you'd expect: somewhat amateurish, cracked vocals, cheesy medieval synth intros, and ill-advised reinterpretations of (presumably) French folk tunes- but it's the black metal in between that makes it more interesting than just those parts. This is a little bit of an anti-grower, admittedly- when I first heard it, I thought it was amazing, now it's just pretty good- but there's enough here and the band is a good enough namedrop that I figured I had to cover them just to maintain my underground credibility.
It seems that depressive black metal is a bigger influence on tiny underground scenes than most would easily admit, and though "Fiers Et Victorieux" does predate the biggest explosion of that particularly maligned brand of black metal, its hallmarks are all over this, be it in the post-Vikernes ear-splitting wail of a vocal performance, the furtive Silencer-influenced tremolo riffs, or the unsteady thrash drumming that takes the place of proper blast beats. Still, apart from the darker, more brooding tremolo riffs, this influence doesn't generally extend to the guitars, which are a pretty solid mixture of Scandinavian riffing (see: Darkthrone, Ulver, maybe some Taake) and the Quebecois' particular sense of slight twists on typical folk melodies through odd chord shapes that you see in bands like Malveillance. Binding this hodgepodge of elements together is a rolling, often midpaced gallop rhythm that dominates much of the songs between the faster, thrashing sessions; a lot of these tracks have more strum than tremolo, letting the riffs unfold in an appropriately stately manner for the ideological values the band tries to express.
It's not all roses, of course. The "Traditionelles," for all their desperation to express a sense of history and archaic grandeur, are pretty fucking embarrassing and should have been excised from the album or massively reworked; I don't want to hear old folk songs with shrieking and a low-quality, synthetic guitar tone any more than I want to hear yet another bland acoustic retelling of the same thing. Couldn't they have come up with something a little more ambitious? Perhaps just work those melodic ideas into the bulk of the music? All they do is break the flow of the album (which already feels more like a collection of songs than an entire statement) and make me sort of cringe whenever they come up. The production is messy and reedy; the guitars hiss a bit too much and the drums just sound flabby and dry. This isn't exactly a joy to listen to, but thankfully the mixing is tolerable enough and the songwriting good enough to not make it a huge issue.
Is this in any way a mandatory album? Absolutely not; you can firmly relegate this to the realm of weirdo black metal obsessives and forget it if you're not a part of that group. Still, there's a certain indefinable element to the music that keeps me coming back to it; it might be the way the shrieky, loose vocals interact with the riffs, the occasional hints of ambitious, complex riffing here and there, or just the undeniable enthusiasm with which the band plays, but there's clearly something to this which makes it worth a look by the underground aficionados. All in all, not a bad way to spend $8 or something.
(Originally written for http://www.trialbyordeal666.blogspot.com)