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More atmospheric and folk-oriented than 1st album - 77%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, May 15th, 2008

Forteresse's first album was quite good if perhaps too typical of the black metal genre. With this follow-up the band is now moving in a slightly more ambient musical direction and the musicians are now integrating French Canandian folk music elements into their acid-guitar shower brand of BM. Indeed the first song "En Quete du Souvenir" comes as a big surprise to those who thought they already know Forteresse: this is a very spacious synth-generated atmospheric instrumental piece suggestive of skies clearing after a cloudy beginning and a little rhythmic bit done entirely with drumsticks. The black metal proper comes with "Ancienne Voix" which comes down suddenly like a torrential downpour of withering BM guitars, impossibly fast rhythms and a mix of screeching grim vocals and spoken deep stentorian voice covered in echo. There is a shrill vibrato lead guitar trilling at the high end of the sound range which provides a contrast with the rest of the music. Structurally the song is minimalist with riffs repeating over and over and all the instruments more or less follow the same riff or melody patterns quite rigidly with not even a hint of tonal variation in that high-pitched guitar.

Subsequent tracks like "Tenebres" and "Les Corbeaux" follow the example set by "Ancienne Voix" closely: blizzard music where the piercing high guitar and the bass guitar match each other note for note and riffs usually repeat or loop. As a result the purely BM tracks on this album can be hard to tell apart although "Les Corbeaux" does have a slower, more majestic and thus more doomy feel than the other pure BM tracks. Perhaps not a scenario to attract new listeners but Forteresse may well be striving to create an atmospheric effect with such acid-sounding music and the lack of clear distinguishing riffs and melodies for each song may not be a big deal for the guys. The songs perhaps should be viewed as linked episodes in one all-encompassing opus intended to immerse listeners in a harsh and distinctive sound world where winters are long and cold and summers are chilly at best.

Perhaps the real jewels of the album are the two short tracks that feature acoustic folk: the sound is fairly clear in contrst to the black metal which can often sound blunted and the feel of these tracks, particularly "Fils de Patriotes - Peres du Renouveau", can seem at once sunny yet bleak. These short pieces serve as necessary relief and sunshine breathers in what would otherwise be an intense and monotnous guitar rainstorm all the way through, and help to reinforce the theme that motivates this album and Forteresse generally: to celebrate French Canadian culture and its traditions, to demonstrate the French Canadian cultural link to the land of Quebec and how that environment has influenced the culture's outlook and history.

The album is not likely to draw in new fans due to the lack of catchy melodic hooks and the music is reminiscent of thundering torrents of rain without the discomfort of splash; the album definitely follows on from the previous album but with a more ambient-oriented feel and a clearer vision of combining black metal with French Canadian folk elements to create a slightly more distinctive style.