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Rebellious fury from Quebec - 85%

Paganbasque, January 18th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Sepulchral Productions

Leaving behind the classic Norwegian or Swedish black metal scenes, there are some other quite strong scenes, which have risen in different parts of the world. Some nice examples are the Ukrainian or the Polish ones, among others. One of those which has been highly praised by fans over the world is the one of Quebec, in Canada. As many of you surely know, in Quebec, in contrast to the rest of the country, they speak in French and the nationalism is quite strong. In fact, they have held several referendums, where the pro-independence parties were very close to win, though the result was to stay in Canada. Here, black metal has been deeply influenced by this political movement and many of its bands show a quite political approach in their lyrics. Among them, we can find one of the most notorious acts, the Forteresse. The band was formed in 2006 and quite shortly after its inception, they released an acclaimed debut entitled 'Métal Noir Québécois', where their political views were pretty clear. This album is considered a classic effort in the scene and helped Forteresse to carve a respected status among the fans. Musically speaking, Forteresse plays a quite guitar driven form of atmospheric black metal, relentlessly fast but with a strong atmosphere, especially in the old albums where the production was rawer.

Anyway, the band evolved slightly through their career and more than ten years after its creation, the current line-up, formed by the two founders and other two musicians, decided to release a new opus, the fifth record in their history, to make clear that Forteresse is stronger than ever. A jubilee is always important and I assume that the members wanted to do their best. 'Thèmes Pour la Rébellion' is the title of the new beast and I can promise that it doesn´t disappoint. Comparing the new album with the oldest ones, the first big difference is the production. It is clearly louder, cleaner and more powerful. It abandons the classic raw but atmospheric sound, for a heavier one. This might disappoint some old fans, but in my opinion the band still manages to create songs, which are very strong though they keep an atmospheric touch. What has no changed is the energy and speed of their compositions. Fiel, who is no longer in the band, smashes the drums with a relentless pace. The compositions breathe energy and fury. As both the album´s artwork and the songs demonstrate, this album is a perfect inspiration for a, this time only musical, rebellion. After a short intro, the second track “Spectre de la Rébellion” makes clear that this work will take no prisoners. But probably, the highlight of the album, and also my favourite track, is the next one, “Là Où Nous Allons”. What a beast of a song, believe me. Since the initial riff the track oozes strength and fierceness. The guitars are excellent, the riffs are hypnotic yet powerful, while Athros screams with all his fury. As I have already mentioned the cd is quite guitar driven, more than ever I would say, and I can´t recall a moment where the keys are audible, if they are used. Arrangements wise, what I like are the choirs they used a few times, like in “Vespérales”. Those voices give an epic touch to their compositions and I wish they could use them more oftenly.

In conclusion, Forteresse has expanded its musical boundaries releasing in 2016 (but re-edited in 2018) their most poignant and furious album so far. The atmospheric nature of the compositions is still there, though it’s partially buried by the relentless fury and speed of the new tracks. At the end, it is a great album and from the beginning to the end, the tracks will be able to capture and mantain your attention, mainly thanks to the awesome work with the guitars.

Originally written for "www.thepitofthedamned.blogspot.com."

a oui oui oui - 77%

caspian, December 2nd, 2016

The themes may be goofy (Quebecois nationalism? What next, Wyoming separatism? Tasmanian pride? Frankfurt becoming a city state??) but the music here is pretty good. Forteresse perhaps don't have a classic on their hands but they sure know how to write a strong, energetic, powerful black metal album, that's for sure.

As far as I can tell the ingredients are pretty simple- a fair bit of 2nd wave riffing style, a pinch of norsecoreish bombast and blast, coupled with an excellent sense of the epic that the greek scene is known for. It's not a particularly complex thing, but that's fine because it works so well- this fast, unrelenting storm of riots, energy, gunfire and bitter conflict. Needless to say it's very evocative. As a general rule I listen to albums a few times before I research them- it's often interesting to see how impression from a "blank slate" listen correspond to what the band is actually trying to say- and here they really nail it.

It's just a passionate, warlike, fierce album- all these big tremolo picked melodies floating over the top of some furiously impassioned vocals and a drum battery that would give Marduk a decent run for their money. Credit must go to the band and to those who recorded it- you can really smell the buildings burning as the rebellion spreads; it's just this crisp, cracking, a-grade mix, and the vocalist sounds huge.

But it's not a perfect album. The songs certainly blend into one another fairly quickly and you get the feeling that things would be better if at a few points Forteresse embraced their epic side a bit more and built a few tracks with more of a narrative structure. I'm not necessarily talking fruity folk parts (which apparently these guys were guilty of in the past- it's a relief there's little here, short of a tastefully done outro), just perhaps a few more tempo changes and a bit more sense of build in the tracks; it's hard to go too many places when everything's blasting away right from the get go.

Honestly though that's not a huge problem; it's still a very fun album and I can see it at the very least going on my gym playlist for a fair while. Well worth it if you want some nice, spicy black metal.

(originally written for www.thepitofthedamned.com)

Waging The Patriot's War - 93%

dystopia4, October 5th, 2016

Quebec easily has one of the best black metal scenes in the world and it shows no signs of slowing down. Perhaps no release is more important to the province's vibrant black metal stronghold than Forteresse's seminal debut Métal Noir Québécois. The album laid down a solid outline of what QCBM was generally about - icy atmosphere, rolling tremolo with a melodic edge, a foundation informed but not loyal to the second wave and no shortage of nationalist/separatist sentiment. The debut sounded relatively samey, but Forteresse excels at making albums with little variation. Blast beats rumbled, ice-cold tremolo rolled across the soundscape like massive hills roll along Quebec's landscape and melody lingered. Since then, Forteresse has opted to explore the more ambient and folky facets of black metal to varying results. While the old timey Quebecois folk music samples are long gone,Thèmes Pour la Rébellion is a triumphant return to form.

Thèmes Pour la Rébellion is conceptually centered around the ultimately unsuccessful Lower Canada Rebellion (also known as the Patriot's War) of 1837-38 in which Lower Canada (previously known as New France and currently known as Quebec) attempted to attain sovereignty. History is a theme that I find works very well with metal, and it's always exciting to see it in the context of my own country - and the friction with Quebec is easily one of the most interesting parts of Canadian history, which frankly can be quite boring at times. A return to the more violent and triumphant sounds of the debut is perfectly fitting considering this album's bloody themes. I always love when the cover art perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of the album, and this serves as a prime example. The triumphantly melodic yet sharp and violent riffs are quite cinematic, and conjure images of towns set ablaze and bitter conflict.

This opus is quite similar throughout, but don't think for a second that this is a drawback. Like Métal Noir Québécois, Thèmes features an exceptionally consistent sound, and the sound here is quite similar to their aforementioned debut, albeit slightly updated and featuring a somewhat less raw (although still very potent) production. Big rolling anthemic riffs are in great abundance, grounded in a wallop of ice-cold tremolo. The drums stick mainly to blasting, and while this little variety would usually bother me a bit, Forteresse do their one thing so well that they need not deviate from their template. The defiant rasps are strong and echo the triumphant vigour of the riffs. If there is one instance of them deviating from the formula, it is the outro "Le Dernier Voyage". The lush wintry atmospherics remind of the non-metal sections in Immortal's At the Heart of Winter. If there is one nitpicky and pedantic gripe I have about the album, it's the sample of a documentary related to the album's theme. Yes, it is obviously very relevant to the subject matter, but it disrupts the flow of the album. I used to live in Quebec, and my computer still gets Youtube adds in French from time to time, and the first time I listened to this on the full album Youtube stream I actually thought I was getting another one of these French adds.

An astonishing return to form, Thèmes Pour la Rébellion stands second only to their masterpiece debut Métal Noir Québécois. It feels in many ways a sequel to their magnum opus; while it's definitely not Métal Noir Québécois II, their debut's sound provides the foundation this album uses to flourish. Their folky and ambient leaning albums are all well and good, but hearty repetitive black metal with big melodies and bigger riffs is where they truly burn brighter than the village in the cover art.

Effervescent and compelling - 92%

Felix 1666, September 10th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Sepulchral Productions

Dear friends, you are entering Quebec. Anthemic, triumphant lines which are skilfully combined with blast beats welcome the listener as soon as the intro gives way to the first regular track. Forteresse leave their individual scent right from the get-go. They get down to the nitty-gritty in a matter of seconds and their total passion is very well expressed by the formidable melodies that they offer. Yet do not think of pleasant harmonies that have the potential to enthuse the mainstream metal audience. Regardless of the band's affinity for fairly melodic lines, this is an extremely harsh album at the same time. No doubt, the musicians are on a good way in order to realize their artistic vision. The stylish artwork does not promise too much.

Frequently enough, one discovers a new band whose music sounds like the songs of another formation. Or, another well-known symptom, a group appears as a melting pot of the selected style, because its compositions are completely generic. This is not bad per se, a lot of doubtlessly strong albums follow this strategy. Yet I guess an independent approach reflects the highest artistic skills. Forteresse do not look towards the left or towards the right, they follow their own instinct. The result is a fresh breeze that may revitalize some old warhorses of the scene. The melodic yet fiery approach and the high velocity form an exciting unit. This excitement is based on the band's excellent understanding of stirring leads. From my point of view, the musicians have forged brilliant black metal songs, while ambient elements are largely missing. No loss! Without doubt, the songs create an inflammatory atmosphere, but they have nothing in common with lame, keyboard dominated tunes of depressive whiners. The band with the separatist tendency is full of energy and its members know exactly how to transfer their restlessness to the wondering audience.

With regard to the title of the album, the rebellious character of the songs comes as no surprise. The introduction delivers an ominous scenario and six mind-blowing tracks follow. One sees burning barricades, desperate civilians, overstrained soldiers and unmanageable riots before the inner eye. The four-piece has penned a very homogeneous and compact six-pack, only the calming closer relies on a less belligerent concept. It seems as if the storm is over and both parties are counting their dead. Anyway, the six typical underground hymns reveal the pure brilliance of the formation. Indeed, authorities exist only in order to be abolished and Forteresse seem to have the right tools for this dangerous enterprise. And, by the way, the intelligently designed song material profits from the forceful production. I admit that I do not listen to songs with an immaculate sound. With regard to the slightly ill-defined snare drum, there is room for optimization. Furthermore, the guitars do not deliver a wall of sound, but they generate an aura of inexorability and that's the crucial factor. Without question, the guys of Forteresse are prepared for the revolution. Inter alia the thundering drums at the beginning of "Le Sang des héros" provide evidence in this context. But it is slightly misleading to pick out single songs - each and every of the six tracks between the intro and the closer unites enthusiasm, violence and musical cleverness in a glorious manner.

In 1998, the nervous cowards of the Supreme Court of Canada - or Cour suprême du Canada - have decided that no province has the right to declare its own independence. I hope that these champions of democracy are happy. Vice versa, the political goal of the here presented combat unit seems out of reach. Yet the music should be taken seriously, because these men of conviction make no compromise. Without the more or less atmospheric, rather inconspicuous last number, this album would have bordered on perfection. Yet it does not make sense to look for the fly in the ointment. Forteresse take the extreme metal scene by storm and I hope they have enough good ideas for further fanatic releases. I am optimistic. Idealists keep the fire burning, no matter what happens.

Themes pour la Rebellion - 100%

ThelemaVeritas, July 10th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Sepulchral Productions

This is a great example of a band that I had never heard of a few weeks ago then all of the sudden they explode all over all my social media feeds. Clearly this was telling me that Forteresse is a band I need to look into. There’s a lot of history behind the band that I was completely, to my great shame, unaware of. Métal Noir Québécois. It’s a completely unique scene, somewhat isolated in the cold lands of Canada, and apparently Forteresse is responsible for naming it. Is it any surprise that “Thèmes pour la rébellion” is such a strong album? Seriously, this is an album that more than lives up to the hype about it. When was the last time that happened?

They play a very fast paced ambient black metal, a massive wall of sound interspaced with beautiful melodies that carry the music through the album. There is a little of everything in the album, if you are looking for straightforward, raw black metal it’s there, if you are looking for melodic black metal it’s there. Speed? It’s there too, and not in the traditional “play as fast as you can even if the melody and rhythm suffer” black metal. The speed is blazing, no doubt but the lads of Forteresse use that speed to create melody, similar to the way speed and power metal works.

The production is grainy with a slight drone but just enough to make the music dirt. The sound is still wonderfully clear, punctuated with crisp sounding drums on a rock steady foundation of blast beats that have some of the most consistent speed and power I have heard. Ever.

The vocals are shockingly good. I don’t know why but I wasn’t expecting something so crisp, raspy, and strong. I am always nervous about new bands based on vocals alone because bad vocals can rip a band to pieces. Forteresse has perfect vocals laying on top of the music. The singer isn’t just rasping into a mic either, each line is carefully crafted so that it matches the music, it’s not so much a counterpoint (the twin guitars are more than enough) as it is an added layer of melody and sound.

The ambient noise, the winds, the spoken word, all ground the music, give it a place in reality. These sounds serve as the linking elements between the atmosphere created by the band and the message and purpose of the band.

Forteresse may be new to me but I think they are incredible and Thèmes pour la rébellion is a potential Album of the Year candidate. They have such a unique sound and approach to music that it is hard not to fall in love with. You can head bang to it but you can also just sit and listen, there’s groove, speed, thrash all rolled into a black metal shell and twisted into a form that can only be called Métal Noir Québécois. There is a reason everyone has been talking about this album.

Originally posted to Resounding Footsteps.

Trilogie noire québécoise Tome I: 1837-1838 - 85%

Metantoine, July 9th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Sepulchral Productions

Forteresse, possibly the most famous Québec black metal band, celebrates its 10th year anniversary this year and to celebrate they’re releasing their fifth album on the Québec national holiday, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste. June 24th is certainly a fitting date to release this new opus written by this group of well known nationalists. The band has always stuck to their guns (or muskets) but the formula has changed now and I think it fits the chosen theme.

Their first compositions since the excellent split Légendes released with three of their metal noir brethren, the songs on Thèmes are much more aggressive than before. It’s perhaps their less subtle album to date and this applies both to the musical and the conceptual sides of the album. I think the tragic and violent aspects of the Patriots rebellions of 1837-1838 deserved an added dose of vitriol and that’s exactly what the guys did. The ambient and atmospheric moments have been toned down a lot and there’s a big emphasis on riff-based songs, the tracks hit harder than before and the production is much more clean and complete than it was before since it was produced at the well known Necromorbus Studio in Sweden. Now acting as a full band with four members, you can actually hear the difference in the way the songs are played and composed, it feels more complete and natural. The founding members Athros (vocals) and Moribond (guitars, bass) are once again joined by Fiel (sole member of the excellent Grimoire) and Matrak (Chasse-Galerie, Cantique Lépreux) who adds a second guitar to the mix. The musicianship is top-notch for this kind of métal.

While the guitars are crunchier and faster than before, Forteresse still manage to write compelling songs full of atmosphere but nevertheless, the ambient personality of the band has been replaced by this sort of epic black metal identity. The line between epic and atmospheric/ambient is sort of abstract and arbitrary. The solid mix and mastering definitely helped them to achieve their vision for this patriotic album.

A concept often linked to epicness is cheesiness and I do think Forteresse were always on the cheesier side of black metal with their olde tyme violin samples (such as the ones on Métal noir québécois. While there’s no violins or folk elements on Thèmes, there’s still some fermented milk to be found. "Le sang des héros" starts with a sample about the Rébellions from Épopée en Amérique, a great documentary that I’ve actually used to teach Québec history in my classes. I thought it was quite funny but it’s an anecdotal and personal experience, I guess!

There’s an overarching theme throughout the album and it’s related to the illustration in which we see Québec City in flames. The way I’m interpreting the cover art is that they used the 1760 conquest of New France by the British as a prelude to the rébellions of the 1830s. During the album, we’re served samples of fiery winds and the whole excellent ambient outro ending the sad and tragic tale recalling this sombre period of Québec’s history is strong winds intertwined with delicate keys, one of the sole soothing moments on this busy, intense record.

All in all, it’s difficult to say where I’d place this album in Forteresse’s discography, while I think Thèmes would benefit from more variety, it’s surely their tightest and most cohesive work to date

Metantoine's Magickal Realm