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A mild, meandering mollification - 60%

autothrall, November 22nd, 2011

With their fourth full-length, Crépuscule d'Octobre, Quebec black metallers Forteresse have gone a more traditional route for their parent genre. Their music still conjures up longing, wide open spaces due to the heavy atmosphere that its repetition invokes, but the actual music is pretty straightforward, formulaic black metal with surges of predictable chord patterns above which are strung these stringy, thin tremolo lines that likewise cycle themselves almost. The result is an album which unfortunately wears out its welcome too soon. The majority of the songs eclipse 9 minutes in length with very little internal variation or anything much happening, so the band is relying heavily on the listener succumbing to some trance that never really happens here...

I'm not saying that Forteresse were ever necessarily some bastion of creativity, but I found the songs on the previous full-length Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines to be much more expansive, lush and gripping than these. There, the trio had their airy stretches of atmosphere down to an exact science, but this takes a more aggressive turn, with a lot of standard blasting tempos in which the streams of chords never offer anything extraordinary. The melody lines are indeed pleasant, but too often repeated to death. Often I'll feel like four or six cycles through the same note progression are more than adequate, but they go far beyond that here. Some of the songs like "La lame du passé" or "Spectres du Solstice" are little more than two riffs alternating for almost 10 minutes, and while I like how the guitars serve as a windswept plain that the vocals carve into like scythes, most of the songs simply stretch too wide over the same core concepts. It certainly would not have hurt to incorporate a wider dynamic range, because as it stands, the writing almost feels lazy.

That being said, there are still several elusive traits to the music which prevent me from truly loathing it. For one, I like how the vocals, melodies and chords all interact together to feel as if they're always approaching the listener from a distance. I enjoyed the stark ambient intro to the album: "Silence d'Octobre" to the extent that I hoped for more such passages throughout, French spoken word samples and all. Actually, all of the little folkish dressings to the album are welcome. They feel unique, giving us a good sense of who Forteresse are. Where they come from. Where they want to go. If only these features were more prominent throughout the meat of the metal cuts...because they always seem in desperate need of something more. It does feel like the minimalism of the song structures was intentional, and this is a technique that functions well enough with more hypnotic compositional skill, but here the hooks arrive and depart like bird calls in the breeze, to little enduring effect.