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Unessential but quite good still - 78%

Noktorn, March 24th, 2010

Before you ask, yes, this sounds about as French as the aesthetic would suggest.

Ur Falc'h:

This band plays a somewhat droning variety of pagan black metal with an emphasis on folk-influenced riffing and even some (possibly synthesized) flute and other folk instruments. This is employed much more tastefully than in, say, later Nokturnal Mortum, as the folk instruments have the taste to bow gracefully out during the more aggressive sections. The dedication to the folk aesthetic by Ur Falc'h is pretty huge, with some chanted clean vocals popping in occasionally and the overall riffing style bringing a more decidedly folky variety of black metal to mind, but this has the aggression and intensity of real black metal behind it, making this a fairly varied and intricate side of the split.

The black metal is broken up by more pure folk/ambient passages, but unlike a band such as, say, Saltus, these are implemented tastefully and to the benefit of the songs overall, even if the melodies get a little samey and cheesy. The overall delivery of the music is similar to a less blast-heavy Brume D'Automne, and while it does get a bit cloying at times with its overweening obsession with folk, it's implemented well enough for the most part to not be a huge issue. The strength of this band is in the usage of guitars; the main riffs are quite good for the most part, but in the moments a lead guitar pops in to provide a contrasting melody, the music really comes into its own as a memorable and tasteful slab of black metal. Good stuff here.

Heretic Blood:

This band excises the folk of Ur Falc'h and amps up the drone, resulting in a style that's very similar to Pagan Hammer with more traditional black metal influences. The band employs a drum machine permanently set to blast or double bass, forming a very static but still solid bed for the simple yet engaging riffs to build upon. While this is at its heart droning black metal, there's a lot of riffs per song, making this sort of a more traditional alternative to a sheerly minimalist band like Animus. The riffs are very strong; they're simple but carnal melodies that are surprisingly catchy despite how basic they are, and while the technical skill required to play any of these songs is close to nil, the band makes up for it with a surprisingly nuanced sense of pacing and overall songwriting.

Some of the more furtive moments on this side bring Bloodaxe to mind, particularly in the dedication to speed and an aggressive spin on the Pagan Hammer style of epic drone/black that this side makes its own. The sparse vocal accompaniment typically reduces most of these songs to generally instrumental compositions; as you would expect (like Ur Falc'h's side), they're a reverbed Francophone semi-suicidal arching wail that provides a pleasant but nonintrusive accompaniment to the rest of the music; the guitars are dominant on this recording, as they should be, and the band's good at writing memorable riffs with an emphasis on organic songwriting. Another surprisingly good side.

Overall:

I think Heretic Blood wins by a nose here; their style of black metal just appeals to me more than the more traditional folk/black of Ur Falc'h, but neither is a weak contender. Both sides of this CD are worth investigation by fans of more minimal melodic black metal, and while this is simple, underground music, it has enough accessibility to appeal to those outside the margins of the genre. None of the material here will amaze you, but it lasts through multiple listens without losing what makes either band quite good. Recommended.

Does their ancestors and Canada proud! - 97%

Runespawn, December 23rd, 2007

Upon first hearing 'Retour de la Noirceur' online, I knew I was going to like this band. Then I got 'Sur le Chemin de la Noirceur' (their split-CD with the also excellent and equally enigmatic Heretic Blood), and liked them a hell of a lot more - too much in fact!

Openning with marching theme 'Bacchu Ber', it sets one up for what the rest of the album has instore - pagan metal played just like it would have been back in 1568. Its production certainly suggests this, but there's always an exception. Normally albums as diverse and multi-dimensional as this fall flat on their face with anything less than a crisp, lucid recording but this is what Ur Falc'h have seemingly - and undoubtedly successfully - set out to do.

Musically, like a seemingly unending throng of peers, all equally as good (please notify me of any bad progressive pagan metal bands please; there just doesn't seem to be any!), is based entirely in a spectrum of ancient folk crafted with the care and subtlety akin to what Lofn would have bestowed upon it, melancholy ambient most nocturnal and progressive Nordic black metal that instantly brings to mind the ice-ravaged yet profusely beautiful and alluring devoid of Nunavut's plains. Each piece taking you to a different time in a different land where there was only man, his sword, his journies and the battles he faced to survive the day - no added anything, no stupid ideologies, just candor and truth to himself. All befittingly complemented by Athros' throaty screams and occassional operatic hums.

Whether it's the folksy ambient of 'Nuit Palenne' or the dogged progression of 'Quand les Corbeaux Crient Leur Haine', their side of the split puts no foot wrong, something that puts the Qubec duo apart. Utterly supreme.