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Folky black metal done right - 84%

Arboreal, December 18th, 2008

The snare sounds like a god damn spastic woodpecker though. The drumming itself is fine. That sound just bugs the shit out of me. Very flat sounding and perhaps a little too dry. As the title says, this is black metal with folk influences. There are acoustic guitars but the "folk" primarily comes from the riffing. Those familiar with the different types of folk music around the world will know that not all of it sounds like James Taylor or Polka. You'd be surprised how great some of these melodies sound with distortion!

The vocals are quite pleasing as well. Inhuman and raspy as you might expect. Upper mids. Fairly distant and a little wet via reverb and/or delay effects. The ghosts aren't exactly busting out of the crypt after you here, but the vox are nonetheless a very serviceable shriek most of the time.

It's nice to hear lots of cymbals since the production is a tad murky. Crash and ride are worked into the patterns frequently but not constantly. He'll switch over to some kick-heavier passages for the more driving, rhythmic measures. Slower sections appear emphasizing the snare at times. The ubiquitous black metal blasting is present as well. Snare, ride, and kick (or some combination thereof) locked in, perhaps accented differently for different songs. The blast tempos aren't incredibly fast or anything, which I prefer. He spices it up well enough within each song to become a memorable and engaging performance overall.

As I mentioned, the production is augmented for the black metal aesthetic of kvltness. It's done lightly and well, bringing together the atmosphere of "occultism outdoors". This practice is popular among many bands today...and many fail miserably. Not so with Belenos on this release. It has a slightly lo-fi muffled quality without going overboard. Mainly on the guitars and vocals, the drums are quite clear but in a reserved fashion (no fancy EQ, quantization, triggering, etc). I like a little more distance and room sound in general for that evil, cavernous vibe. This album is definitely louder/more compressed than the ideal "raw" sound but that's not the aim here. The bass frequencies have a nice punch to them, too.

The reverence of nature and ancestry has always been a part of black metal. That's basically the main theme here. It's integrated amazingly well, however! The somber acoustic guitars throughout highlight this, as does the storm of fuzzy guitars playing those folky parts I mentioned. The chords themselves are far from new to black metal, but the changes and melodies are unique is the case with any good black metal band incorporating folk music into their sound. The lyrics are rather hard to discern for me. I imagine he's shrieking about suitably pagan things -- heritage, nature, war, etc.

I chuckled with the brief appearance of some funny sounding clean vox at around three minutes into Voyage Subliminal. Look out! The rest of the cleans are very good though so don't worry. Subtle chanting, half-spoken parts appear in the background occasionally. Nothing campy. This is NOT hippies by the fire singing Kumbaya. This is slightly less gay, crazy-guy-in-the-woods dressed up in Medieval armor. Yes, with black metal you must suspend belief. This is true for metal in general to a large extent. The genre is SO over the top and tongue in cheek that there's a fine line between serious and laughable. Thankfully, Errances Oniriques comes off as pretty damn serious. Your mileage may vary, of course. This is definitely a bit more subtle and majestic than an all out barbaric march to war.