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A very original recording of French-Canadian folk and raw if tinny black metal fusion, "La Seigneurie des Loups" (which would translate loosely as "The Lordship of Wolves" in English), this is Neige et Noirceur's darkly atmospheric homage to the land and environment of Quebec.
The album kicks off in fine style with "Croix de feu, croix de fer" which is introduced by twanging mouth-harp that's quickly swamped by a huge cold blast of black metal guitar storm, manic digital percussion and venomous rasping vocals. The quality of the sound is primitive but allows individual instruments to be heard very clearly; even background effects are distinct. Although the track is for the most part a straightforward BM song with varying speeds, trilling tremolo lead guitar and brittle percussion beats, sole NeN member Zifond sprinkles the music with icy-cold synthesiser tone wash and slivers of silver mercury tone flash their way through an extended instrumental passage. A very evil-sounding lead guitar solo combined with cold-dry-air ambient synth, mouth-harp twanging and a shrill pipe melody give the track a very acid psychedelic feel. This is followed by "Ancien Folklore Quebecois", a compressed black folk metal shanty.
Although a very short track, "1839" has a beautiful melody with a pristine atmosphere suggesting vast lands of silent conifer forests never before seen by humans. This leads into the title track which in contrast to the preceding tracks is a stern mini-opus of found sound recordings and savage atmosphere, doomy synth riffs, steely BM guitar attack and ugly vocals. The drum machine is completely off its brain here and flames might be leaping from its over-heating sides. There are moments where soundtracks of unseen film snippets appear which almost give the song a slight hardcore element. Cold synth tone ambience, a steady doom beat, madly flagellating drum machine and an arch tinny guitar melody are an odd choir but all elements work well in strange harmony. However, as the song progresses, I sense a loss of focus and direction as though having reached a certain level in a cold, airless, dry and totally black cosmos, the music is at a loss as to where to go next. Bringing up the rear is "Les plaines de Krolok": I confess I've not been able to hear the piece in its entirety so I can't comment on it.
While some editing would have benefited the album, especially in the title track where the second half just seems to go on and on and keeps repeating itself, on the whole there are interesting ideas and combinations of musical elements which open up new possibilities to reinvigorate BM / folk metal fusion as a genre. The music sounds very much as if Zifond enjoyed making it and was inspired to do even more, to the extent that he might have over-reached himself on the title track and floundered a bit. The ambient elements in NeN's style are beautiful, even ethereal at times, though they have to be used very sparingly. (Sometimes the cold space ambience comes under pressure to deliver and then it starts to sound boring.) Folk melodies have a very robust spirit though they can sound a little mechanical and rushed.
The cold air atmospheres suggest a point of comparison with Paysage d'Hiver, a more wintry and moody black metal act, and the use of found sound recordings, mechanical rhythms and melodies and furious BM rhythms place the NeN close to Darkspace, a project sharing a member with Paysage d'Hiver, among other ambient / drone BM bands.
Listening to this and other recordings dedicated to Quebec, I don't find myself wishing to visit that land of snowy winters, fierce blizzard weather and packs of ravenous wolves hunting moose - but I'm interested in tracking down more Quebecois black metal as the scene seems to be very strong though it's still fairly obscure.
The cover art of Neige et Noirceur’s second full-length La Seigneurie des Loups implies that the album contains a load of wintry black metal, and to some extent that is very true: sharp guitars bring forth cold melodies while rapid (programmed) drums batter like a blizzard and somewhat effected vocals provide chilling atmosphere à la ColdWorld and Paysage d’Hiver. There’s a lot of hypnotizing moments in the music, not unlike Darkspace, given the somewhat machined feeling that the drums cause.
But what makes La Seigneurie des Loups mainly different from the aforementioned is the use of traditional istruments. This becomes clear on the first tracks - ”Croix de feu Croix de fer” and ”Ancien Folklore Québécois” - already. Then comes ”1839”, a short interlude of acoustic guitars playing upbeat melodies. These are the distinct features of Neige et Noirceur that are very welcome, though their incorporation into cold black metal isn’t exactly perfect. Hearing happy flute melodies and warm acoustic guitar strumming amidst fiery black metal has its problems, needless to say.
Nonetheless, La Seigneurie des Loups is dominantly a positive experience in the end. Song lengths spanning from one to sixteen minutes makes the album a hard piece to digest but worthy of diving into. Fans of the bands mentioned in the first paragraph might enjoy this greatly, even if this isn’t a groundbreaking record in any way.
3 / 5
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Neige et Noirceur's second full length focuses primarily on the heritage of Quebec, Canada's only French province. Considering this band is comprised of a single man, this album is a remarkable piece of experimental art. There are distinct elements of Quebec that make this album special. There is one entirely folk song that perfectly captures the feeling of the forests of Quebec on a cold winter day. "1839", a black metal song, features a different type of folk music; the type you might hear in Quebec in 1839.
While this is probably not the most technically advanced release, it strikes a deep emotional chord with me. I have never heard an album with quite the same atmosphere as this one gives off. This record features a large amount of experimentation. Experimentation doesn't always go right, but this album is one of those great occasions where it does. The first song, "Au crépuscule de l'espérance", includes a lot of weird electronics. Instead of making the song feel cheesy or misplaced, it adds another interesting layer to the song. "Les Plaines de Krolok" is by far, the most experimental song on the album. A relentless crescendo begins the track, which soon gives way to subtle dark ambiance. Samples of French voices are featured among the ambiance. Although I don't understand what they are saying, they are still interesting because they contain a vast amount of emotion.
As you probably have already gathered, Neige et Noirceur do not play straight ahead black metal. Their unique approach has definitely caught my interest. The requisite tremolo riffing is there, but there is much more depth to this album then the average black metal release. When the playing gets fast, it really gets going. To contrast the rapid parts, there are many slow sections that bring on a sense of doom. The vocals are not one dimensional, both high pitched rasps and deep cavernous growls are used. It sounds like a drum machine is being used, which usually would bother me. In this case it doesn't really. The programming is way better than in most one man black metal bands. The blast beats are relentless. Another layer is added with drum patterns being juxtaposed over the wallops of the pounding blast beats.
Lately, I've been noticing a lot of great unique one man black metal bands coming out of Canada. Bands like SIG:AR:TYR and Sombres Forets have really inspired me. Neige et Noirceur can be added to the list of exceptional one man black metal bands from Canada. The originality on this album should not be overlooked.
Like Forteresse, Neige et Noirceur ('Snow and Blackness') is another Quebecois band deeply immersed in its heritage, though the two have notably different sounds. Zifond is the sole member here, performing all of the instruments and the bitter vocals, and La Seigneurie Des Loups is the second full length offering, after last year's Crépuscule Hivernal sans Fin sur les Terres de la Guerre and a series of demos, singles and EPs. Mixing folk elements with thundering black metal in the vein of Norse acts like early Emperor, Satyricon, and Immortal, Zifond creates dark and bleak vistas which lyrically extract historical events from his homeland, and it's packaged with a lovely, poignant cover (first hundred or so copies come with a DVD packaging, so if you're obsessed with this Quebec scene, don't hesitate).
La Seigneurie Des Loups is certainly a dynamic offering, which works in its favor, as you can expect something mildly different around every corner. There are three notable centerpieces: the 13+ minute "Croix de feu Croix de fer", 16+ minute title track, and 11 minutes of "Les plained de Krolok", and these represent the bulk of the material, each a bold narrative that cycles through a number of styles and sequences that twist and turn through dark emotions. Of these, I'd have to award the title track with the prize, a wolfen epic that opens with doom-like certainty before tripping off into turbulent, raging darkness, with a more sparse, psychedelic infusion arriving around 12:00 into its course. "Les Plaines de Krolok" is likewise fascinating, though it's all cerebral ambiance with a bit of vocal sampling. I also enjoyed the brief folk interlude "1834", with some clean vocals and graceful acoustic guitars that, in a short time, manage to transport the listener straight back to the 19th century.
The album is not entirely even, but none of the songs are necessarily bad. I found "Croix de Feu Croix de Fer" to be extremely unusual, with weird electronic sounds and even a mouth harp intro, and the average length "Ancien Folklore Quebecois", which merges traditional uplifting folk shanty with a siege of black metal riffing, just felt too familiar. But neither of these quite submerged me into their aural tapestries like the rest. I find that the guitar riffs are occasionally lacking throughout. Adequately angry, and performed with a fluency, but rarely evoking a sequence of memorable notes that you don't feel you've heard before. Still, the overall effect of the compositions remains successful, and La Seigneurie Des Loups is not only worth a listen, but has served to pique my interest in exploring deeper the Quebec scene.