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FORTERESSE: "Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines" - 70%

skaven, November 21st, 2011

When listening to Forteresse’s third album Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines, I am once again reminded of the beauty of minimalism: freezing in moment and just letting the almost motionless music pour into my ears and mind. The wonders of escapism are more than welcome in the middle of my daily hustles, and this album does its job very satisfyingly. I assume that the first offering of Forteresse wasn’t leaning this heavily on ambiance, and the direction started to change to the current one on the second album, so this album shouldn’t come as a shock to those who have heard the previous output, but might disappoint some of the first album’s lovers.

Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines flourishes in ambient: be it in the slow-tempo, highly atmospheric black metal of which the record mostly consists of, or in pure ambient like the second and sixth track on the album. Reverberating, slow drum beats pulse while razor-sharp yet not offensive guitar melodies appear somewhere in the distance, delivering a constant stream of tremolo. Simple, melancholic and occasionally epic melodies, enhanced by prominent, misty synths. The music is very bleak, evoking pictures of barren landscapes throughout the 36-minute playing time during which nothing radically changes: the dynamics are basically the same all the time with the exception of some climax moments and i.e. piano melodies on the fourth track. Screams are somewhere in the distance, too, fitting very well in the overall despondent atmosphere.

Taking a look at the front cover art - which is very much to my taste, by the way, including the placement of the texts - of Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines tells quite much of the album already. Dividing the tracks into seven unnamed movements was a good decision from the band so that one can fully concentrate on the music as a one long piece. The album doesn’t deliver anything new - quite the opposite, remembering how crowded the area of ambient black metal is - but I find myself greatly enjoying the vast aura of the album. This is not something that I could play in every occasion, but for those quiet moments on peaceful winter evenings this is a highly appropriate release to put on.

3.5 / 5
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