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Could have been Autarcie's breakthrough album - 77%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, December 4th, 2014

Once this band was up and running with its debut "S.I.D.A. (Sedition. Isolement. Deliquescence. Autarcie.)" back in 2009, there was no stopping these guys: they have been releasing at least one full-length album or similar every year including 2014 when they turned out a split album with fellow French BM band Baise Ma Hache. "Époque Révolue" was the band's third album, put out in 2012, and compared to their debut which I reviewed some weeks ago, this is a steady and assured effort that mixes distinctive and idiosyncratic folk melodies and rhythms with a raw though basic production, consistent if not brilliant musicianship and gravelly vocals that suggest world-weariness.

The album begins very strongly with "La Saison des Loups" ("The Season of Wolves") which has such distinctive melodies and riffing that the song might one day become Autarcie's anthem if the guys become better known: the melodic chorus has an insistent melancholy that finds its way under your skin quickly and stays there. The easy flow of the song is impeded by the tortured lyrics, and if there was less singing and more instrumental music with a bit of lead guitar solo, the song might even be singles material.

After the first song, the album becomes more conventionally straightforward black metal with tremolo guitars coming to the fore, the music more dominated by riffs and the singing harmonising more with the rhythms as well. The music is performed with zest and energy though the songs might be less mainstream and accessible to most people. There is something for everyone: of the shorter songs on the album, "Dix ans de guerre" ("A decade of war") has a swanky feel and "Vorgine" comes with an urgent, almost militant air with clashing martial percussion. Possibly some of these songs could have gone for a longer treatment with more instrumental music, a definite ambience developing and some emotion; as they are, they're quite brusque and listeners might feel that the songs only brush the surface of whatever subject matter the lyrics explore.

As the album continues, the black metal element recedes and the music becomes more post-rock with an urban blues ambience. The singing does not vary much  in emotion but carries on half-chanting / half-singing the lyrics. Some dark plaintive psychedelic guitar wash appears and for a brief while it seems the music might express some real emotion but the chanted lyrics and the hurried nature of the music limit any connection that listeners might want to have with what they're hearing.

It seems the band was striving for a great deal on this album: it's possible "Époque Révolue" could have been Autarcie's breakthrough album with the strong opening track, a bunch of songs in the middle emphasising the band's BM roots and later songs with a more melodic urban blues / post-rock bent. It's certainly very busy and very heavy on lyrics expressing a cynical and pessimistic view of the world. While the album is technically consistent and boasts good musicianship, I do think it hits a plateau quite early and the best music tends to be bunched up early in the album or in later patches well past the halfway mark. Technical chops substitute for ideas and real drama that might come with fewer lyrics and more improvisational instrumental music stressing total immersion in the world Autarcie aims to inhabit.