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The Quebec black metal scene is very healthy right now. There's a good number of unique bands in that region, but the one that's quickly becoming my favorite is Neige et Noirceur. The project, lead by the enigmatic Spiritus, makes raw sounding atmospheric black metal in such a way that calling it Canada's Paysage d'Hiver is actually a pretty adequate description. This is especially true on the band's third album Hymnes de la montagne noire.
While the album before, La Seigneurie des loups, had a small but very memorable inclusion of folky elements in two of its tracks, those elements are completely absent here on Hymnes de la montagne noire. This trade off does have the benefit of making the album sound more consistent and the result is an album focused entirely on making dark wintry black metal. With only two tracks breaking and one falling less than forty-five seconds short of the ten minute mark, this album also progresses noticeably faster than the previous album which had two longer tracks.
The production has improved over the last album which makes the guitars sound a lot clearer. This is a particularly good benefit since the riffs have also improved. While the the main driving force is the guitars, the keyboards add the right amount of backup ambiance to the sound despite being sparsely used until the second half of the album. The style is very reminiscent of Paysage d'Hiver's self titled album in that it's also a raw sounding wintry black metal album with small reliance on keyboards for the most of its passage. Hymnes de la montagne noire though is different in that it has much more dynamic riffing structures and has a darker night time atmosphere to go along with it.
With the furious riffs, programmed blast beats, and backup ambiance, the one negative I want to point out is the vocals occasionally getting annoyingly grating. Spiritus's shrieks are fine most of the way through, but there's times like the beginning of the third track where he does reach Dani Filth levels of shrillness.
However, this isn't nearly enough to take away my overall enjoyment of Hymnes de la montagne noire. This is still a very strong album. Neige et Noirceur will go on to push the bounds of their sound after this album so there will always be something to look forward to with this band, but for now this is a strong step in the right direction.