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Ambient and hypnotic if unvarying black metal - 65%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, March 3rd, 2013

Canadian band Forteresse has a style of music that is highly immersive, atmospheric and hypnotic, and which can submerge listeners in long periods of trance-like vibrato guitar noise. Writing albums of music in conventional song structures, with breaks in between songs, doesn't really suit such a band. After two albums and several other releases, at last these guys release an album of flowing ambient black metal in seven untitled tracks that are related in theme (Quebecois nationalism expressed in the love for the land of high forest, flat plains, lakes and snowy winters).

Generally the beats are quite slow and the rhythm consists of ringing and resonant guitar noise riffing that gives an almost burning jewel-like sound. The music sounds quite rich and lush and almost has a holy or sacred quality. The atmosphere is solemn and respectful. Vocals rage across the guitar riffing and long drawn-out tone melodies which stretch over the entire length of most tracks, creating the impression of a wide flat space over which grass might grow. Keyboards usually follow the guitars and bass very closely: in track 4, the keyboards include a solo piano melody near the end. Later tracks may feature additional instrumentation such as flutes.

Many listeners will find this album monotonous: there are no lead guitar solos that break with and disturb the ongoing streamlined riffing, establishing a tension between the solos and the rest of the music; there are very few actual melodies; drumming (both natural and programmed) rarely varies and either lacks energy or sounds very mechanical; and the atmosphere rarely changes either. Mood is usually quite sorrowful or commands your respect if not your admiration. Some but not much variation is introduced much later with track 6 being almost entirely ambient with a blizzard ambience and orchestral backing.

I wonder why the band couldn't have joined all seven tracks into one continuous piece of seven movements. The movements can still be fairly distinct in themselves, the links between them being natural developments of the previous track's coda building up into the next track. The flow and immersion would be uninterrupted and there would be the opportunity to make the music sound organic. At about 36 minutes, the length is about right: had it been shorter, the album might have sounded rushed but the extreme minimalism and unvarying style of the music wouldn't have sustained anything longer than 40 minutes.