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Atmosphere without the cheese - 85%

Necrobobsledder, October 11th, 2006

I love death metal, don't get me wrong, but I enjoy how black metal knows when to give your neck a break more often. Black metal is intrinsically more atmospheric than death metal as part of its description and ethos, so therefore it must slow down for its effects to set in. Think of teabagging(not the sexual term): you have to take your time as you let the bags seep so that all the flavors soak in.

Belenos's sophomore album Errances Oniriques follows along these lines. Upon hearing the first track, Morfondu, you're floored by the volley of near-untappable blastbeats the band spews at you with rapid-fire velocity. You try to headbang, but find your efforts futile due to the crazy syncopated rhythm. All you can do is nod convulsively, which arguably makes you look like an idiot. Then, at the drop of a dime the tempo downshifts to mid-level and you hear these wonderful pagan background vocals. These vocals are the vestigial remnants of aeons long ago, a time of ancient rituals and codes of honor. You might hear some acoustic work, and then the song steps up incrementally back to the vicious tempo of its inception and dies down. All the songs(except for two) follow this general ebb and flow, with minor variations. It's a bit unsettling, in a good way, since you'll be hardcore nodding and your equilibrium gets screwed up when the melodic portions surface.

The two songs I pointed out consist of one instrumental and one that masquerades as being an instrumental. The first of these begins with a boldly serene folk respite with no vocals, but this is just a facade as all fury is unleashed about three minutes into the song.(Of course, you can have furious instrumentals, too.) If it was up to me, I would have voted to keep the whole song instrumental, even if it was more of a segue than a work of art. Segues have their places too.The other song is in fact an instrumental, but it sounds so elegant that you'd almost want to call it neoclassical shred or power metal, albeit more reserved. Again, it's only a segue.

These two songs are the most out of character, but you could say the whole album has some points that are out of character. For one thing, you have these ridiculous Bal-Sagothic vocals, which sporadically appear saying "MARCH TO WAR" Yeah, march to fight a horde of mythical minions conjured by an unholy number of geeks. What I'm trying to say here is that these particular vocals sound fantasy-oriented and maybe futuristic. Belenos is pagan black metal, which concerns itself with more historically documented mythology(ies) Secondly, there's occasional Maidenish guitar harmonizing, but that's probably more common than I think in black metal. Hell, I'm just glad that the guitars are given some focus on this album instead of the damn drums drowning everything out.

I'm so glad that I've gotten to hear some black metal with personality and lyrics beside those dealing with Satanism and antichristianity. The pagan themes aren't as tired and the fact that it achieves melody without hackneyed symphonic arrangements is definitely something I can sink my teeth into. I'll have to pay more attention to this genre.