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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.