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Not quite heavenly start for instrumental atmospheric DSBM debut - 70%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, August 18th, 2020

A new horde of one, Épéistes formed some time in 2020 and wasted no time at all in recording, arranging, mixing and releasing its debut recording. "Murmures céleste" ("Heavenly whispers") is a good introduction to the solo project's style of instrumental atmospheric BM. The recording may be arranged conceptually with short repetitive non-metal tracks bookending two long BM songs and which work mainly to set or reinforce the mood of desolation and abandonment. Best to get rid of the short pieces quickly: "Murmures célestes" (note slightly changed title for the track) is mainly cold and cloudy drone with a humming counter-drone loop that alerts listeners for the soundscapes to come while "Citadelles" is a repeating piano melody lament for what has been lost forever.

"La Grande Épee" starts slowly, so slowly it might almost be blackened doom, but picks up speed and becomes quite fast; otherwise it's very much melodic old-school BM with a depressive mood and a cold, almost bleached-out atmosphere. The production is very clear, so clear that bass guitar ends up sounding more prominent (at times it follows its own path through the song) than the high-pitched tremolo BM guitars and the percussion. Listening to this track, I pretty much forget there are no vocals, as there is a lot happening here: the music goes off onto various melodic and rhythmic tangents, and the result is a detailed tapestry of riffs and tunes, some of them quite catchy, that sustain a very bleak emotional soundscape. The best part of the track comes very late when percussion drops out and the guitars bleed their riffs slowly across the desolate grey skies in your head.

As with "La Grande Épee", "La Flamme" is a slow starter with such poisonous shrill guitar lines early on that all of a sudden the very air you breathe turns stale and everything you see takes on a sickly tinge. Again bass guitar appears as a lead instrument, even when following the rest of the music as when it departs and goes off on a separate though parallel path to the guitars and percussion. This is a very desolate and sorrowful piece mixing high-pitched tremolo riffs, up-and-down bass guitar melodies and background guitar noise grind into a whirlpool that speeds up and becomes intense and urgent.

I'm sure this work as a whole is intended as immersive and hypnotic music using the most minimal and essential elements of atmospheric DSBM with some doom metal and ambient influences. While the individual metal tracks are good, when all tracks are put together they still seem like a collection of separate songs with just a depressed mood in common. The non-metal tracks are too few - I think another one between the two metal tracks is needed - and too different from each other, one being ambient and the other having more in common with the metal tracks in having a dominant instrument (even if it is piano) and a repeating melody.

"Murmures céleste" comes across as an interesting if flawed experiment in creating mood music using the core DSBM instruments and structures. If Épéistes wants to continue further down the path of composing mood or soundtrack music in the DSBM genre, it will need to bring in ideas and inspirations going beyond the core genre elements and at the same develop a distinct style within the genre.

Solid instrumental black metal - 60%

oneyoudontknow, August 3rd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Independent

Heavenly Whispers, this is the translation provided by the Google Translator in terms of Murmures céleste. Considering that this release is instrumental, it might come over as a rather peculiar aspect. Or is it a reference to the cover artwork, which would be "The Descent Of The Spirit" by Gustave Doré? Are those whispers something that transgresses our immediate understanding and comprehension, even though it may might very well be in our immediate grasp?

In terms of the music it is necessary to differentiate between two parts of approaches. While the first and the last of the four tracks can be labelled as dark ambient in style, it is up to those others to set the intensity of it all. Épéistes' approach in this regard can be described as a lot of tremolo-picking with a few layers of guitars. There is not the intensity like in case of Xasthur or Grim Funeral for instance, but at least this Canadian band provided the music with enough bite to enable it to exist without the impact of a vocalist. Those melodies, ignoring all preferences in style or sound for a moment, appear to be able to stand on their own. They a, well let us call it, distinct character that is expressed in a certain degree and way on this album.

As in the case of a "whisper", the music has a scope that is not exceeding a certain threshold. It is stuck in a defined environment, which in this case is a rather constant as well as comforting black metal one. Comforting, because the arrangements never indicate as if these would dare to break the steadiness of the flow. Breaks or interruptions or stark deviations from the underlying current in the music cannot be found. Similar to what could be expected in a prayer or in a conjuration a level of repetition helps to guide the listener along. Having that said, the two main tracks contain ideas that revolve around certain musical approaches that each in their own try to be distinct somehow.

La grande épée -- the great sword -- consists of a rather introduction as well as fading out, which are similar in style and can be described as having a "melancholic" atmosphere. Of course it does not stop there and soon a basic setting of this type of black metal is revealed. It consists of a basic rhythmic structure over which the bass guitar and a lead guitar battle things out. In this track as well as in La flamme it is this aspect that tries to grab the attention of the listener. Rather than being overtly intense or aggressive, the idea appears to be to provide a distinct set of arrangements that are allowed to have an impact throughout the track. There is a motif and it is dragged down the road and kicked excessively. A dense guitar layer to set the atmosphere, drum to help set the pace and a bass guitar that is allowed to set some contrasts. All in all, this is not a Dream Theater performance, but we are in the realm of the darker and more basic arts, which means that all is as expected. Anyway ... yes, one might want to see a larger amount of variation, one might long for a bit more intensity and less repetition, but, truth be told, La flamme has some nice moments. Not so much in terms of how the track opens, but rather the slightly melancholic middle part. Nothing spectacular, but interesting enough.

The absence of vocals do have appear to have much of an impact as long as you are able to get yourself carried away by the atmosphere and/or arrangements. Once facet less demands a larger amount of energy or quality in terms from the rest. Trna's music is utterly different. Relies to a much larger extent on intensity and a voluminous sound. In terms of Épéistes this level of expression cannot be found. Instead it reminds at times rather on what can be found in black doom faction of the genre. Slow, intense music with bursts out of a slight overwhelming depressive atmosphere. This Canadian band does not venture down this path, but is also not too far away.

Maybe this would be the target audience for this release: someone who would like to have this black doom with a bit more bite.

Note:
MP3s; 320 kbps; Bandcamp.