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It's hard not to make comparisons when dealing with debut releases. For Smohalla's incredibly worthy freshman effort Résilience, Emperor clearly comes to mind. If time travel were possible and I could somehow play this album for myself before Ihsahn began his career as a solo artist, I would have guessed Résilience to be a work of his as opposed to After, especially keeping Emperor's later works and Peccatum in mind. We can end the comparisons right there, because where Smohalla might border upon the exploratory side of the Norwegian second-wave aesthetically, its structure, or lack thereof, is unique in all the right ways.
If one were to free-associate a description of Résilience as if it were a painted canvas, freehand, dark, colorful and cloudy are words that will most likely come to mind. That is not to say that the songwriting of this French duo Camille and Slo is completely void of structure, but the looseness with which the songs were crafted allows the listener to focus on a variety of different elements all without interpreting the album as a totally abstract piece of art. With all the howling and shrieking, blastbeating and shredding going on, Résilience contains plenty of recognizable song parts to make the listener feel at ease in the first go-around, but this is definitely an album that is better understood after a few spins. Perhaps the only flaw worth mentioning is the vast amount of various keyboard effects that Slo chose to incorporate into just eight songs. To put it simply, it adds flavor at times but slightly disturbs the coherant atmosphere at others. A very minor infraction, if I might say so myself.
Résilience doesn't merely pay homage to one of the more artistically inclined eras of black metal, it is helping the up and coming generations of musicians kickstart a new one. Smohalla has now proven that it is up for the challenge, and has done so with a strong appreciation and understanding of the roots from which it spawned. With so many French counterparts playing a loosely similar style of metal, recognition may be the band's most daunting task to come, but there should be no doubt that Smohalla contains just the right amount of, as we say in German, einzigartigkeit to become something special.
Originally written for MetalReview.com