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Sombre Chemin seem to have gone unnoticed amidst the surge of French black metal dominating the air waves in recent years. Though Scandinavia is the proud fatherland of black metal, given the fact that the area is responsible for putting the genre on the map, countries like France are the young son, the one who is responsible for drawing in new fans and maintaining the old fan base that helped light the torch to begin with. France, the son of the fatherland, has become more powerful than Scandinavian countries in regards to offering the best the genre has to offer. Alongside fellow powerhouse Germany, France is responsible for the increased interest in the genre and probably one of the reasons why young musicians are taking up this style and emulating their heroes. Sombre Chemin haven’t been able to capitalise on the influx of fans and don’t seem to draw in a big crowd - probably due to their National Socialist ties - but they do have a strong, small audience who tune in despite the connotations of their racialist music. When ‘Doctrine’ came about, I loved it. As far as National Socialist music goes, its amongst the best in a truly bad sub-genre of black metal.
Given the fact that the lyrical themes usually warn people off alone, its probably no surprise that a lot of bands who revolve around the issues dealt with by National Socialistic themes struggle to maintain any interest in their music. The sub-genre is also notorious for sub standard musicians who’re too full on hatred to mesmerise the onlookers with their music. A lot of the bands within this scene, to be fair, are god damn awful so when you come across a decent one, its usually wise to stick by them regardless of the lyrical content. I don’t adhere to the themes. I think the themes are ignorant more so than anything, but I can adhere to the instrumentation, which is why we listen to music in the first place, right? ‘Doctrine’ was in a class where only a few pupils are given the right to abode. Fellow French acts like Alcest, or even Mortifera, at least partially, understand what it is to be an uplifting entity within this demonised scene, filled with bands with incredibly downbeat sound structures. ‘Doctrine’ was creative and inspiring, instrumentally. The sound was unlike any I had ever heard and for that reason, as well as the solid song writing behind the dynamic vibe, I could see myself becoming a fan of this band.
However, with the arrival of ‘Notre Héritage Ancestral’, the longevity of the bands career was jeopardised by a change in style. Whilst there are a few similarities to the debut, this sophomore doesn’t intent on offering noteworthy similarities that can draw numerous comparisons to the style of the debut which came only a year prior to this effort. Given the fact that only a year has passed since ‘Doctrine’ whimsically embraced positivity (in terms of the sound), ‘Notre Héritage Ancestral’ has coated the uplifting nature of the aforementioned debut with a thick layer of hatred and negativity, which flows unstoppably towards a much different conclusion, one that leaves me disappointed. Even going by the instrumental introduction to this piece we can tell that the record is going to sound completely different. The introduction itself is emotive, but in a fiercely downbeat manner which contradicts the glorious upbeat style of the previous record which I have come to appreciate more as time has gone by. The line-up is the same, so I’m struggling to understand why the conclusions are different. Perhaps the musicians felt as if the sound wasn’t harsh enough for the type of lyrics on offer?
This could be why the soundscapes have altered from uplifting synth based structures to repetitious and venomous guitar led structures. However, despite missing the euphoria of ‘Doctrine’, ‘Notre Héritage Ancestral’ has its own ways of entrancing the listener with clean instrumentation in the form of acoustics and lush soundscapes on songs like ‘Crux Uncus’, which does contain some loosely synth based melodies. Even the vocals have transformed from a lighter rasp, to a heavier rasp which takes more of a toll on the listener emotionally. However, given the fantastically written nature of songs like ‘Crux Uncus’, which swiftly moves from airy to an intense dank feel, Sombre Chemin haven’t lost their edge entirely despite the move away from uplifting material to darkness personified as the harsher textures wrap their diseased arms around our throats, instead of the gentle caress of the bass, keyboards and even guitars on ‘Doctrine’. I find ‘Notre Héritage Ancestral’ to be a lot more forceful in its methods, and a lot less appealing, but it does draw out some worthy elements of the repetitive raw style that the French are often associated with. Though ‘Doctrine’ is, and always will be, held in a higher esteem, there are some very delightful moments on this aphotic and argumentative piece.