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France’s most wretched and pessimistic black metal band are back once again to spew forth their current pain and misfortune upon our unwitting ears. Reflections of a Sad Soul is their third outing and has recently been rereleased on Sun & Moon records, and our eternally perturbed duo of Lord Lokhraed and Herr Suizid are as downright fucking depressed as ever.
If you’re familiar with Nocturnal Depression, you’ll know what to expect; expansive dirges commonly reaching the twenty minute mark of a hypnotic and thought-devouring nature of which repetition is used to its full advantage. The formula hasn’t changed, but as the old cliché goes, why fix what isn’t broken in the first place? Nostalgia and Soundtrack were both very accomplished efforts which stand easily among the best the DSBM genre has to offer, Reflections of a Sad Soul maintains this quality, on a par with Soundtrack maybe but not quite reaching the devastating heights of Nostalgia, one of the greatest albums of this style ever, an album which encapsulates everything which is good about the DSBM genre.
So, getting down to the music itself, Reflections doesn't get itself off to the greatest of starts. A throwaway intro before it switches to the most disappointing track on the album, “The Whispering Sepctrum”. It knows where it wants to go, but is lacking that final quality catalyst to shift it up to the gear it needs. The guitars plod along at snail’s pace with a basic riff which it never really deviates from, backed by a relatively simple drum pattern and overlain by Lokhraed’s lazy sounding vocals. You could just split the song in half, remove the second half and double the first, and it would still sound exactly the same. Simply put, it’s just not very good.
It’s a good thing then that “Fading Away in the Fog” ups the ante a large amount, cranking up the speed a notch with more traditional tremolo style riffing with Lokhraed’s Kanwulf-esque vocals. The main riff which comes in around three minutes and recurs frequently throughout this song is fantastic, and the way in which it closes the song in unison with Lokhraed’s nauseating vocal lines and increased speed is fantastic. “Solitude and Despair” is a brief (for Nocturnal Depression’s standards!) instrumental minimalist piece containing rather hypnotic guitar picking which flows along quite effectively until the drums come in and totally ruin the whole fucking atmosphere.
Then, we have what I would consider Nocturnal Depression’s ‘magnum opus’, a track which they’ve never bettered. “Her Ghost Haunts These Walls” is eleven minutes of nothing but pure melancholy and torment, the light guitar picking throughout constantly hammering away at the back of your head like that one memory which just won’t leave, coming back horrifically more intense each time; An example of repetition being used to great effect. Things are kicked up a notch towards the end, and Suizid’s riffing together with Obeyron’s uneasy leads and Lokhraed’s vocals threaded throughout the closing stages of the song culminate in what is a crescendo of nothing but pure hopeless emotion. Any self-respecting fan of this style of black metal needs to hear this song; A perfect example at how to perform this style of music and avoid the pitfalls that snare so many other bands who end up degenerating into self-parody.
After such a stunning song, “Nevica” has a lot to live up to, though not a song about the ski brand much to my disappointment. Again, sticking with the brooding melancholy, in the same vein as before, while not as good as the previous it still keeps the bar high before with the second half of the song being a lot more engaging than the first.
One of the standout aspects of this releases is Obeyron’s lead work, subtle yet welling with misery, why this is his only performance with the band I don’t know. I guess only Lord Lokhraed can tell us. Yes it still has problems, flat and amateurish drumming at times and a shitty thin production, but fuck it, this isn’t Dimmu Borgir, this is a superb quality release which succeeds in being genuinely depressive rather than full of spotty teenage angst. It isn’t as good as Nostalgia, but being their out and out masterpiece they’ll probably never better it, but I am more than welcome to being made to eat my words on that. Roll on the next album, I already have my box of tissues.