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happened to Sombre Chemin as the music here is very clear and actually quite bright and positive in its general orientation. If you only know the early recordings and were expecting something with a filthy sound and a punk BM style, this album will surprise you.
A clear melodic Burzumesque influence is present in the melodies and the riffing, the simple keyboard melodies (even if they are washed out) and in the general minimalist repetitive pop structure of some of the tracks. The sandpaper vocals might be the only really major depressive element on this album, being set far back in the mix and usually cloaked in reverb. The percussion may not be very remarkable but do enough to sustain the music which by turns can be dramatic, lively and even very triumphal. The minimalist grinding guitars with the occasional tremolo lead solo are dominant throughout the recording and sustain its flow and energy.
No doubt after their early murkier period these guys are in a celebratory mood on their full-length debut, even if their lyrics beg to differ as they promise to bring destruction to our current world so that a new, supposedly more authentic world, cleansed of corruption and racially and ethnically pure, can take its place: the music exalts in its frenzy, massive scale and aggression, and within the limits of its sonic make-up and range can be a glory to hear and follow. The vocalist doesn't so much sing with feeling as erupt with a life-force far beyond the one he was born with. The keyboard wash tones magnify the force powering the music and aggression. Where slower, more contemplative moments appear, their sorrow seems all the more deeply felt.
All the tracks are quite good and they're best followed as chapters in one all-embracing work. A surprise is "Pan est mort", a darkly industrial ambient instrumental with deep sinister machine rhythms and sounds, led by a hissing high-pressure water hose drone and a one-finger synth melody: the title suggests this is a lament to the destruction of nature thanks to humanity's thoughtless actions over the centuries. "Rien qu'une volonte" ("Nothing but a desire") is a long tortured piece of howling vocal and rapid spoken voice though the music itself is steady. The singing rounds off with a punkish cover of French 1980s neo-Nazi band Bunker 84's "Les feux de joie" ("Lights of Joy") which sits oddly with the rest of the album: it's an awkward angular song with a garage ambience.
I don't care much for the National Socialist theme of the lyrics but you don't have to be ideologically aligned with SC to thrill to the music as the emotion and anger fuelling it come from a frustration with modern Western neoliberal capitalist society and its ills, and how it rewards a small minority handsomely while everyone else is forced to fight for the crumbs left behind. Much the same could be said for a lot of BM inspired by other political ideologies. Ultimately the music and the passion with which it is pursued matter and this recording is indeed powerful and passionate.
I’ve always told myself I wouldn’t judge National Socialistic music until I heard the content of the instrumentation. Lyrics have never really been a priority in my eyes. Essentially, music is a feeling and as the ancient strings of the guitar are stretched to breaking point, they’re meant to depict, through mesmerising sound, how I feel and when I find that connection, that is when I know the music has a place in my world, despite the lyrical content. I don’t agree with National Socialism, but I do agree with decent black metal and despite the obvious drawbacks of Sombre Chemin’s presence within the black metal industry, their music does nothing but bolster the opinion of it since they offer a thrilling experience unlike any other band that I have come across. There are many things that could be seen as typical of the genre in this French bands style, but despite the familiar methods of instrumentation, the output strikes me as somewhat different to the majority of bands circulating the current market, as well as the olden generation, may it rest in peace.
Given the bands inclusion of loud, in-your-face rasping vocals, heavy distortion and repetitive soundscapes, one would imagine this would come across as your average, everyday black metal record with an all too familiar tone, setting and vibe. This isn’t the case. I suppose one thing this band has taught me is that, although the methods may be the same, the projection can be distinctly different and the surfacing atmosphere isn’t necessarily a full gone conclusion despite the typical roots. Atmospherics have played a pivotal role in the successful nature of black metal since the dawn of its creation and that is no different in today’s modern era. Bands still rely heavily on a crushing atmosphere to portray the unsubtle nature of the lyrics, which are always an abrasive aspect of the content given the awesome vocals that dominate the listener like a life long fan of sadomasochism. Punishing our view on reality with often out-of-this-world portrayals of negative emotions far beyond the levels of human understanding. Hatred, anger and violence are all aspects of black metal that come attached to the vast majority of atmospherics however, there are, once in a while, bands who may operate these negative emotions within their soundscapes but in a juxtaposed way to the instrumentation.
Whilst the vocalist of this visceral band may be pulling the hatred of hell out of the broken ground, the instrumentation portrays an oddly uplifted sound which isn’t akin to the rest of the black metal market. Despite the regularities of this record - the repetitious riffs on bass and guitar and the hateful vocals - the content somehow manages to sound euphoric through the hateful bliss that emerges as the vocalist continues along the war path of destruction, bringing down tolerance along the way as he attempts to justify the ideas of nationalism and racialism. Even in the would be uneventful instrumental songs like ‘Peuple de Thulé’, despite its obvious funerary sound given the haunting organ and distinct romanticised spoken vocals (which oddly sounds like a beautiful eulogy being read aloud - though I don’t imagine it is), the wind instruments manage to raise a feeling of triumph and euphoria within me that makes me feel some sort of natural high. The rest of the atmospherics, on the other songs, are similar. The tones and textures on the guitar, though limited, are uplifting by nature and this awe inspiring sound allows me to forget the derogative connotations of the lyrics. Ignorance is bliss, right? Though the majority of this record is repetitive, especially the outspoken bass sections, there is some variation to speak of and often notable parts of variation as on songs like ‘Les Feux de Joie (Reprise)’ with its clean vocals and further developed drum section which often deviates throughout the entire record.
Not content with following on from the largely repetitious elements, the drums are always an area of the instrumentation that requires a keen ear as they’re varied. The bass, despite being a monotonous area, is also key to the upbeat element of the record. It functions supremely confidently alongside the guitar and it is in this combinational style where Sombre Chemin press on from their early potential. I’m not as familiar with the sophomore effort as I am with ‘Doctrine’, the sublimely uplifting debut, but as far as I am aware, it isn’t as good, which is a shame. The production has altered to a more downbeat state, I believe, whereas it is uplifting despite being dense and air tight, catching the listeners imagination within a claustrophobic space, unable to breath and with no escape we’re forced to breath in the intoxicating fumes of the romantic French vision that won’t have us all agreeing with their ideological thought patterns. Despite the flaws, this is a wonderful, uplifting black metal record.
Despite the fact that France now looks more and more like a multi-race rubbish heap there are still people out there in whom the Aryan spirit is still alive and who find the power to resist inspite of the pressure from ZOG (take for instance the sad story of KRISTALLNACHT). SOMBRE CHEMIN can hardly be called an old band but since the time they started they were able to gain respect in NS milieu and release 2 demos and 5 (!!!) splits. Now it’s time for the debut album. I didn’t have an opportunity to hear their previous works and that’s why it’s difficult to say anything about the band’s progress. But what I heard even surprised me, as expecting to get a next darkthrone variation I heard a very interesting and varied work. The band combines BM with dark ambient in a quite successful way and both these styles are represented here in equal proportions (well, there’s a bit more of Black there really). This combination doesn’t repel but on the contrary, sounds very natural. The BM tracks are generally performed in mid-tempo and sound very melodic, but at the same time they are penetrated with a furious spirit – the spirit of struggle. The vocals are typical for Black Metal, but they sometimes use clear vocals as well. I also liked the ambient parts (though we should admit that metal bands not always make them sound interesting). Thank Gods here we don’t have long boring halfhour compositions a-la early MORTIIS, although you could feel his influence, as well as the influence of BURZUM. SOMBRE CHEMIN make it more freezing: you just sit and listen to the burning fire, dropping water, keyboards and screaming people can be heard somewhere in the background, which makes the atmosphere still darker… In general, this is a very strong work and it’s recommended to NS Black Metal amateurs. The CD is released in 500 copies.