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My impression of Canadian black metal has always been in the form of war metal in the veins of bands like Blasphemy and Conqueror, with little attention paid to bands that play other forms of black metal in the country. On first look at the album artwork, it was hard to decide what category Fortresse would fall into. Crépuscule d'Octobre is my first encounter with the band and I have to say I was pretty surprised listening to the album for the first time.
While the album artwork gives the imagery of summer sunshine and of the harvesting season, once the album begins, any such impressions are lost as what is presented musically is cold and atmospheric black metal with no attempt to provide any warmth to listeners whatsoever. Album opener Silence d'octobre emits an almost depressive feel, with melodies that remind listeners of closing tracks of recent Satanic Warmaster albums (such as Utug Hul, minus the vocals). But once the intro ends, and the album begins proper, the listener is thrown into an epic journey. The slightly raw production of the album provides the music with a huge soundscape, with the epic guitar sound and the vocals that fade in and out with ease, never sounding too intrusive or too abrasive. The drums and guitars are also tuned in such a way that they sound slightly distant from the listener, and this is done in good taste as well.
The music on the album also displays how it is not the band's intention to come up with technical songs, reinvent nor push boundaries of the genre, as most of the songs feature riffs that are repeated throughout, and are often in the 9 minute range. It almost feels as if the whole idea of the record is to drown the listener in the large atmosphere, and the only way to enjoy the record is to throw everything on one's mind aside and fully indulge in the epic musical journey. The atmospheric element on the music easily reminds listeners of bands like Old Wainds, or a more epic version of Finnish bands like Satanic Warmaster. That said though, the members also sufficiently display their talents throughout, such as drummer Fiel who, like their more aggressive black metal counterparts, pounds relentlessly on the drums and never fails to keep the pace of the band in check.
The band also incorporates a number of unique elements, with folk-sounding introductions on some of the tracks (like La lame du passé) before giving way to their usual black metal style, and these help to provide refreshing moments, especially for listeners that get easily bored through the repetitive riffs (though this should have put them off by the third track on the album). Various spoken samples and spoken vocals are also littered throughout the album to help to bring out the emotional aspects of the album, and these are done well too. For example, on Le triomphe des douze, vocalist Athros speaks in a heroic-sounding voice, adding in certain folk metal elements into the music at the same time.
The lyrics on the album are all written in French though, so people who don't know French will not be able to appreciate the lyrics, though this does little to reduce the enjoyment of the album personally. The lyrical themes of Quebec nationalism would be interesting to history buffs though, with stories about the history being narrated in the form of black metal by the band.
Generally, Crépuscule d'Octobre is certainly not an album for everyone, especially for people who like their black metal more aggressive and straight in the face. However, this album would definitely be a good companion for those seeking to have a somewhat more soothing journey, yet looking for music that remains in the black metal genre at the same time.
The intro tries to suggest, that this record will feature ambient black metal, as spherical synthesizer sounds are introduced. The body of sound could remind you of some “space” metal, like the lately released Alpha Eri of Alrakis. Just when you started to look forward to those trancelike sounds, you get a boot right into your face, as the transition between the intro and the next song Le triomphe des douze is quite harsh and unexpected. The only thing, that really is clear at this point, is the fact that this record will go back to the roots and therefore feature this Métal Noir Québécois style.
This means, that the record mostly features oldschool black metal, which follows the well-trodden paths in terms of orchestration and structures. Tremolo picked guitars are accompanied by doublebass-attacks, mid-tempo blast beats and quite subtle, resounding vocals. There aren’t much riffs played per song, but that isn’t really surprising as this record clearly follows the footsteps of their debut, but as there is a lack of variation the songs seem to be too long and monotonous some times. Although they often tend to become boring they usually turn the corner and pop another riff or variation that manages to catch your attention. You have to emphasize that their riffs are usually high-class or at least upper-intermediate and therefore manage to be quite entertaining over a long time – compared to many 08/15 bands that are out there.
Sadly, there is nearly nothing (new) left to explore besides those good riffs. The songs reside on the aforementioned pattern without being strong enough to put you in extase/trance. The only thing left worth to be mentioned are the scattered samples Forteresse used to spice things up. For instance the beginning of La lame du passé features some country/folk song on a public fair and the song ends with some heavy gust of wind that carries you to the next song in which some heavy riffs are played. This moments are the highlight of the record, but they could have been a bit more innovative or at least varied, as the intro of Spectres des solstice is exactly the same as La lame du passé. The production is quite filthy and therefore everything is a bit dull, but this goes nicely with the records theme.
Forteresse surely didn’t release a masterpiece with this record, but it’s far from bad either. The melodies are well composed and are able to catch your attention, but as they are reproduced so often the tracks tend to become boring after a while. There should have been more variation in terms of songstructures or melodies – or at least less playing time per track as the tracks would have been more exciting and therefore the record could have been above average. If you liked Métal Noir Québécois you should like this one as well, fans of their ambient record should give it a try, although they could be dissappointed.
Originally written for http://threnodies.com
With their fourth full-length, Crépuscule d'Octobre, Quebec black metallers Forteresse have gone a more traditional route for their parent genre. Their music still conjures up longing, wide open spaces due to the heavy atmosphere that its repetition invokes, but the actual music is pretty straightforward, formulaic black metal with surges of predictable chord patterns above which are strung these stringy, thin tremolo lines that likewise cycle themselves almost. The result is an album which unfortunately wears out its welcome too soon. The majority of the songs eclipse 9 minutes in length with very little internal variation or anything much happening, so the band is relying heavily on the listener succumbing to some trance that never really happens here...
I'm not saying that Forteresse were ever necessarily some bastion of creativity, but I found the songs on the previous full-length Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines to be much more expansive, lush and gripping than these. There, the trio had their airy stretches of atmosphere down to an exact science, but this takes a more aggressive turn, with a lot of standard blasting tempos in which the streams of chords never offer anything extraordinary. The melody lines are indeed pleasant, but too often repeated to death. Often I'll feel like four or six cycles through the same note progression are more than adequate, but they go far beyond that here. Some of the songs like "La lame du passé" or "Spectres du Solstice" are little more than two riffs alternating for almost 10 minutes, and while I like how the guitars serve as a windswept plain that the vocals carve into like scythes, most of the songs simply stretch too wide over the same core concepts. It certainly would not have hurt to incorporate a wider dynamic range, because as it stands, the writing almost feels lazy.
That being said, there are still several elusive traits to the music which prevent me from truly loathing it. For one, I like how the vocals, melodies and chords all interact together to feel as if they're always approaching the listener from a distance. I enjoyed the stark ambient intro to the album: "Silence d'Octobre" to the extent that I hoped for more such passages throughout, French spoken word samples and all. Actually, all of the little folkish dressings to the album are welcome. They feel unique, giving us a good sense of who Forteresse are. Where they come from. Where they want to go. If only these features were more prominent throughout the meat of the metal cuts...because they always seem in desperate need of something more. It does feel like the minimalism of the song structures was intentional, and this is a technique that functions well enough with more hypnotic compositional skill, but here the hooks arrive and depart like bird calls in the breeze, to little enduring effect.