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This was the first work for Forteresse, and so far the one that has impressed me the most. It seems that the Canadian black metal scene is starting to get more notice, and that’s absolutely fair, since decent bands have emerged the last years, such as Sombres Forets, Funeral Fog and Forteresse themselves.
For starters, we notice the booklet picture, an aged man with a violin. Someone could say that he holds the violin like a gun. So, we could possibly relate that image with the general revolutionary and historical theme of this album. The music would not be described as raw at all, since the melody here is totally great.
Two songs start with folkish intros, before the actual tracks break in. Riffs are intriguing, and I’d personally characterize them as melancholic, mourning and proud at the same time. Actually, the word nostalgic may fit more. And if we add the lyrical themes, about Canadian history in general, all that makes perfect sense. The voice of Athros is very good and has a depressive tone, while it stays more on the background, adding to the great guitar tunes. Drums are typical black metal drums, with some breakdowns and changes here and there. Nevertheless, they are very well executed. As for the bass, to be honest it’s not very distinctive and just plays along with the guitars.
To summarize, this is a great album that got my attention from the very first listen, with the song “Une Nuit pour la Patrie” haunting me for several consecutive nights. I’d describe this whole work as ideal ambient black metal to my ears.
Originally written for: The Lair of Storfeth
Proudly Québécois, Forteresse were formed, on what founding memebers Moribond and Athros claim is an irrelevant, day in 2006. After signing to Québéc based label Sepulchral Productions, they released their debut album Métal Noir Québécois in the December of 2006. The band say of this album ‘Metal Noir Québécois stand as a homage to ancient traditions and to all those that long to see the banner of liberty rise at last. PATRIOTIC, EPIC BLACK METAL.’ This is something of an indicator of as to their views. Even the album cover, which undoubtedly some of you thought odd upon first viewing is of, has the photo of renowned violinist Joseph Allard, who, yes you guessed it, was from Québéc. On top of this, 3 of the 5 tracks start with samples of folk music from Québécois musicians, included the aforementioned Joseph Allard.
Let’s get down the actual music of this album. It’s definitely on the more atmospheric side of black metal, though unlike a lot of bands who go by that tag, they make wonderful use of recurring motifs, making the music not only atmospheric, but also really catchy and memorable. The only way I can describe the overall sound of the album would be to say it’s like a relentless energy that envelops you, sucking you in. It’s rather raw in some senses, but at the same time it’s like a really well produced raw sound if that’s not an oxymoron.
One guitar plays majestic leads over a rhythm guitar and bass that almost seem to mirror the lead, in a more rhythmic/accompanying way played on the lower strings rather than the higher ones. I’m unsure as to whether the drums are programmed or not, the more blast heavy sections feel like they could be, but the slower stuff doesn’t. Ether way the drumming is fantastic on this album. Not in the technical sense, but in that they always seem to play a beat that fits. I think it’s one of the main reasons this album doesn’t descend into receptiveness monotony, is because of how the drums have been varied to keep it interesting. Though it should be said, it does boarder the line of too repetitive, but for me I think its fine, I see it in an almost hypnotic and infectious way, like the musics repetitiveness draws you in whilst the tremolo picked melodies permeate your soul. The Meoldies just seem so perfect and timeless as if they were channelling some ancient Québécois melodies and giving them new life.
I can’t believe I got this far without mentioning the vocals. Whilst not the best vocals I’ve ever heard, they are well delivered, and suit the music perfectly. I think there’s something about the French language when used in a black metal context, that even though I don’t understand a word of it, it sounds aesthetically pleasing.
At 50 minutes this is a nice length of album, especially given the content. It goes on long enough to keep you satisfied, but doesn’t go on forever and ruin the experience by making you wish it would end. I don’t know if it’s me, but even albums I really like a lot I still sometimes feel can be too long. But with this I feel they get the balance right.
Now as a review I feel I should acknowledge potential flaws with this album, though I feel I’m putting myself in others shoes here. I think there might be those who find the music too repetitive, or perhaps find that there’s not enough going on to maintain their interest, or even that every song seems to follow a pretty similar formula.
Whilst I can appreciate that concern, I feel there is enough subtle difference to keep it interesting throughout, and the formula is a rather good one. You know what you’re getting when you put this album on; you know the sound and feel of the music you will get. (At least after your fist listen). And it’s either something that you’ll love and want to go back to time and again or something that one listen will satisfy and you might not wish to return to it. Personally I fall firmly into the first category, but I feel an album of this quality deserves to be hear whether it be once, one a hundred times.
That’s right…this is True Quebec Black Metal. Hailing from Montréal, Canada, Forteresse is pretty much an underground black metal band. If you’re wondering how come some Romanian guy knows about such a band, the reason is simply that I am Romanian but I live in Canada…Quebec City. In any case, I heard about them and, having heard a couple of their songs on Myspace, decided to buy the album. A few months later, here I am reviewing the debut album of what I consider to be one of this province’s (numerous) great metal bands alongside others such as Kataklysm and Blinded By Faith.
Forteresse play black metal…raw black metal rivaling the great Norwegian bands in greatness and talent. Here we have 50 minutes of one of the best black metal releases of 2006 interlaced with traditional Quebec folk music (including violin played by Joseph Allard, the man on the album’s cover) and lyrics about Quebec pride. The lyrics are in French, without any translation included, which is no problem for me or for most of the people who’ll listen to this album but might be annoying for those who don’t understand French.
Each song’s lyrical theme is part of the one concept of Quebec nationalism, with concepts such as the freedom that the people of Quebec now posses in Canada being owed to their forefathers who fought with their blood for their liberties in “Moisson De La Liberté” (Harvest Of Liberty), fighting and giving one’s blood for the Fatherland in “Une Nuit Pour La Patrie” (One Night For The Fatherland) and many other patriotic feeling revolving around the ideas of the recognition of Quebec as a nation, this nation’s honor and general nostalgic sentiments about Quebec’s past.
The band is a duo, comprised of Athros (pronounced identically to the French word “atroce”, meaning atrocious) who does the vocals and Moribond (meaning moribund, dying) who handles all instruments. Both do a wonderful job here, as the vocals are excellent for black metal and Moribond plays all of his instruments in a way that is perfectly expressive of how black metal should be played. Raw, simplistic, yet with a perfect melodic flow which is basically a continuation of superb riffs and drumming which is perfectly representative of the best drumming a black metal band could possibly do (not to mean they lack talent but rather that it is absolutely perfect in conjunction with this genre). This perfection on the instrumental side lasts from the first riff in the first song to the last note closing the final song.
Here we have black metal played in an original concept of Quebec nationalism (original for black metal, not for Quebec). This album is basically perfect. I don’t see any flaws nor do I find this annoying or long to listen to, even though it takes some time to fully get into and appreciate completely. On first listen this is just normal black metal played well.
50 listens later this is black metal that rivals with the best of the best out there. Everywhere.
If you love black metal, this is truly essential and the possible difficulty and effort in acquiring this outside of Quebec is well worth it. Get this at all costs.
French-Canadian duo Forteresse sticks closely to the traditional BM minimalist harsh buzzing guitar template and themes of patriotism, sacrifice for one's country and cultural traditions and Quebec independence. The band's style is extremely harsh and aggressive with very shrill high-pitched tremolo guitar set back in the feverish blizzard mix and the pace of the music usually does not fall below fast. Though the guitar can be piercing and a bit sharp, the overall lo-fit production seems to give a slight soft effect on the noise-guitar tornado. The singing is dry and distorted as you'd expect and is fairly clear though it sounds a bit detached (not a big surprise when the music is going at hurricane speeds).
The album features six songs which can sound much the same give or take a change in key here and there. Anyone looking for tunes they can whistle in the shower or for a nice bass / drum rhythm had better look elsewhere. Just about everything Forteresse do here is head-cleaning torrents of acid rain. The French language lyrics are perhaps more important than the music itself and they are all printed with no translation in the CD booklet so English language speakers will need a French-English dictionary to understand what the band is singing about. For those with a smattering of high school French, it's easy to guess what track titles like "Honneur et Tradition" ("Honour and Tradition") and "Metal Noir Quebecois" ("Quebec Black Metal") might be about. A couple of songs, "Honneur ..." and "La Moisson de la Liberte" ("Harvest of Liberty") feature calls to arms.
An interesting touch is the use of folk accordion and violin music extracts to serve as intros to three songs "La Moisson ...", "La Flamme et ly Lys" ("The Flame and the Lily") and "Metal Noir Quebecois". The CD front cover features a photograph of the violinist Joseph Allard whose extract appears on the title track.
If you like your BM to be strictly old school technical and full of heavy showers of raw and angry noise guitar combined with fast drumming (it's possible that the duo is using both a drum machine and natural drumming on most tracks) and the utmost in minimal tremolo guitar riffing, this album will suit you well. Indeed if you had to show someone what the basic BM style is or what it used to be (as opposed to death and thrash metal), this recording would be ideal Exhibit A. There is a heroic, even epic aspect to the music which contrasts with the homely and lively folk music pieces, and the high-pitched guitar passages often have a very resonant ringing quality which makes the music sparkling and even thrilling despite the blunt production.