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It's pretty rare that I listen to split-CDs, these products that bring together several band for an essentially promotional purpose. Too often, the artists found on these releases are extremely different and offer low-quality songs that could not make their way to the full-lengths. Nonetheless I let myself be persuaded to throw an ear to the most recent split launched by Quebec bands Sorcier des Glaces and Monarque, I've known for several years, which come from the same region and share many stylistic affinities.
It is the wizard that opens hostilities with Macabre Sunset Over the Northland, a typical song of its register. Developing a cold but melodic ambiance, this song is inspired by Norwegian best second wave compositions, a true golden age that celebrates our magician since 1998. Just to be sure that everyone understands that reverence, second song is a Darkthrone cover of A Blaze In The Northern Sky, from the eponym album. Pretty safe choice, the version offered on the split is true in substance, but it lacks that rough and lo-fi aspect which gives its charm to the original. It's still nice to hear this song well recorded and performed with talent. But it's Unholy Path to Immortality that holds my attention, with its introduction reminiscent of Windir. Well structured throughout its nine minutes, with beautiful melodies, this song is in my opinion an interesting development for the sorcerer, who expands his sonic palette and style. It's The (Night) Throne which concludes the Sorcier des Glaces portion of the split. This is actually Snowland (1998) last tune revised and corrected. Without being exceptional, it remains interesting because of the atmosphere developed, which recalls the early albums of Emperor. However, the recent reissue of fully re-recorded Snowland (2012) - which of course includes The (Night) Throne - makes the presence of this song on the split far less relevant.
Monarque takes over with Le feu et le sang, a song played live (only available on the Under the Black Sun 2011 concert bootleg tape) which offers a lesser-known facet of the group. Dense, fast, sustained by a rough production, it opens the door to an epic environment that evokes certain moods developed by Enslaved at the very beginning of their career. Note the excellent drumming offered by Bardunor, who masters the different rhythmic changes and gives the boot to this song. Éloge de la malveillance, already available on a precedent EP, is much closer to that what Monarque already done with Ad Nauseam (2009). Cold, hard and strongly distorted, it has several outbursts that dive into the Norwegian heritage, close to certain works of Mayhem, Burzum, even Ulver for some acoustic and ambient passages. The last song of this split disappoints me. Not because of its interpretation, but rather the lack of originality in its choice. You must admit that selecting Bathory’s song Sacrifice is not particularly innovative. Monarque plays it by the numbers, but damn! This song has already been covered by dozens of Black Metal bands in the last twenty-five years! Why not take a risk and select a more obscure title, more loyal to the black butterfly usual register? Mystery.
This split CD is still a pleasant surprise. Apart from the covers, songs found there show a certain evolution in the style practiced by two Quebec local scene pillars, an opening to other influences. This is very encouraging and reassuring for the amateur who is looking forward to new full-lengths.
Originally written for Métal Obscur