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Triumphant Medieval Victories - 85%

TheStormIRide, April 29th, 2018

Aorlhac was fairly active during their first run, which, despite lasting a mere three years, produced two full lengths, a demo, and a contribution to a four way split. The band disbanded and went their separate ways in 2010, with members focusing on other pursuits such as the Celtic folk metal project An Norvys. The members reunited in 2017, eventually adding current Peste Noire drummer / Sühnopfer multi-instrumentalist Ardraos on drums before the recording their 2018 release, L’esprit des vents. The album was released in March of 2018 through Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions, which is quickly becoming the premier label for French black metal.

While L’esprit des vents serves as the conclusion to the band’s trilogy on Occitan history, the instrumentation, production, and presentation show the band on a whole new level. Sure, the addition of Ardraos brought a phenomenal drum presence, but it’s more than that. The seven year break from Aorlhac seems to have granted the members a fresh and rewarding relationship with their muses. Interestingly, despite the renewed vigor, the album is medieval in approach, deftly blending second wave black metal with an ancient, medieval flair. The production is spot on, allowing the vocals and guitars to shine brightly without losing their hardened edge, while also allowing the fantastic rhythm section plenty of room to not get lost in a wall of distortion.

Highly melodic, mid-paced black metal is the order of the day. Most of the album flows quickly by, led by the fiery whipping of tremolo riffing and fast-paced percussion with a near-nonstop barrage of fills. Tons of melodies flit in and out of the guitar passages, be it the general structuring of the tremolo riffing or the occasional lofty, lead guitar notes flitting over the top. Aorlhac has a knack of incorporating brief flourishes of galloping palm muting or scant nods of thrash between time changes, offering a very satisfying and full bodied presentation. The vocals rest in the middle area between desperate screams and disparaging, throat-torn growls.

L’esprit des vents sees Aorlhac return after a seven year absence with what is, far and away, their strongest material to date. The entire offering sounds fiercely rooted in the second wave, reveling in the past, yet the medieval nods and melodic flourishes give the album a triumphant, victorious vibe that can’t be shaken. Though Aorlhac doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, as far as black metal goes, the song writing and musicianship are stellar. Certainly one of the finest moments of 2018 for black metal, L’esprit des vents is hopefully just the (new) beginning for Aorlhac.

Written for The Metal Observer.

Medieval themed black metal - 70%

dismember_marcin, March 16th, 2018

Aorlhac returns with their third album "L'esprit des vents" (through the ever-amazing Les Acteurs de l'Ombre Productions), which is their first release since 2011's 4-way split Ossuaire / Ysengrin / Aorlhac / Darkenhöld titled "La Maisniee du Maufe - A Tribute to the Dark Ages" and 2010's second full length "La cité des vents". But let me be honest - I never heard of this band before, I even looked at the artworks for their previous releases and none of them seems familiar to me. So, this is the first attempt to check Aorlhac and well, I have to say that this stuff is good.

Well, most of the stuff which LADLO releases is fantastic, so it's nothing new. But I have to admit that "L'esprit des vents" surprised me a little, because most of LADLO bands are rather experimental or progressive black metal acts, very modern and unconventional sounding stuff. In that case Aorlhac feels like the most traditional, the purest black metal band so far. Which is nice to hear, I have to say. Great thing about Aorlhac is how they combine the harshness, aggression and really fast paced black metal with high dose of melody, in a way which reminds me some old Swedish bands. Some French bands like Belenos also, let's be clear about that. Generally, I think that "L'esprit des vents" is a perfect album for people, who like when their black metal is sharp and fast, but at the same time it has that epic feel, lots of good melodic parts, diverse vocals (which have quite specific sound due to the French written lyrics) and clean production.

Aorlhac has many really great riffs, in songs like "La révolte des tuchins", "Mandrin, l'enfant perdu" (which is probably my favourite song) or "Infâme Saurimonde" and they really do good work through the whole album... I like this style quite much and I cannot say anything bad about Aorlhac's music... except maybe the fact that the album is slightly too long for me and the longer I listen to it, the more it all starts to sound the same to me. All songs mostly follow the same recipes, so however solid it is, I start to have troubles recognizing what part of the album I listen to at the moment. And let's be honest, it wouldn't do any harm if they cut 2-3 tracks off and make a shorter, yet more memorable record. Obviously it's just my impression, you may think differently... and the band had their own idea and concept for "L'esprit des vents", which I respect. It didn't really ruin the way I perceive Aorlhac music either, so.... I listen to this album with reasonable pleasure and can sincerely recommend it. What a shame though that I have no possibility to understand anything from their lyrics, they're all in French! And it's always interesting to read some historical Medieval themed texts.

Standout tracks: "Aldérica", "La révolte des tuchins", "Mandrin, l'enfant perdu"
Verdict: 70/100

The next best thing to being there - 90%

autothrall, March 7th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Les Acteurs de l'Ombre Productions (Digipak, Limited edition)

Had L'esprit des vents been released during the heights of the second wave boom in the mid-90s, it would no doubt be heralded as one of the all time classics of the black metal genre, riding high on its superb production, incredible musicianship, contrasts of savage aggression and melody, glorious/Medieval atmosphere and the absolute sense of pride and desperation created by the vocalist known here as Spellbound. As atmospheric as it is traditional in terms of how it implements the riffing structures of its medium, this is a case of 7-8 years absence being put to great use, an extremely well rounded recording that rarely if ever falters across its robust hour of material, and provides just enough glinting acoustic segues and variation to smooth the edges of redundancy that might have otherwise crept in had it been on full blast for the sum of its playlength.

I had actually heard both of Aorhlac's prior albums, and come away with a positive impression of the 2010 sophomore La cite des vents, but when this new album arrived through Les Acteurs de l'Ombre Productions, I was immediately taken in by the beautiful, gloomy cover art and packaging. Once I had actually cranked the sucker I was just stunned by how much the group had improved during its years away from being a blip on the underground radar. Unlike their more avantgarde, unusual countrymen like Blut Aus Nord or Peste Noire, this trio approaches the style with a conventional aesthetic...effortless, furious blasting comprises a great deal of the bedrock, and built upon that are flurries of chords and tremolo picked melodies, that while not unique, breathe some fresh air into a practice once perfected by Scandinavian acts, particularly the Swedish upstarts of that 90s period. These are not legion, however, since they'll weave in more evil sounding patterns, some licks even bordering on a blackened thrash. At the same time, they'll go even further down the melodic path than many of their forebears, with some blazing harmonies reminiscent of classic Maiden or Omen, paired up really well with the harsher sequences so that they never really cross into the blackened heavy metal category; they just extract this one technique and work wonders with it.

The rhythm tones are superb, with just enough grain to prevent the record from studio sterility, while the melodies bleed well and clear into their respective speakers. But rising above all that is the vocal performance, which just howls, rasps and soars off across the battlements of instrumentation like a bird of prey closing in on its kill. If you're familiar with French and Quebecois acts, Forteresse for example, you'll know there's a lot of passion inherent to how the lyrics are delivered in the native tongue, but here they are working overtime, perfectly placed, barked and bleated out over every single measure of the music on which they appear. The drums are frenzied, splashy, pregnant with fills wherever they can be inserted to thwart any chance of the errant ear becoming bored with what it's hearing...truly second nature when the record is ripping away, but just as formidable when they lapse into some mid-paced, majestic sweep where the album transforms into this atavistic mead hall drink-off, sans all the fruity, dweeby 21st Century Renaissance horseshit that half the bands wielding the 'pagan metal' brand step in half the time they step in a recording booth.

What a rush. A rush that makes me feel like I should be standing in a field five to fifteen centuries ago, a peasant smeared with blood and dirt, whether from killing or farming, not knowing if I'll starve by the next morning or be stabbed to death by a roadside campfire. But damn proud to be there either way.