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Black metal record of the year? - 95%

JJM1, January 25th, 2014

It would simply be an understatement to say any less than Gris' '07 debut, 'Il était une forêt...,' is an unrivaled masterpiece. Receiving a promo copy within the last few days of December of '07, I never expected that disc inside the simple cardboard sleeve could hold such immense and memorable music, but it did. Yes, that was surely one for the ages, in fact, it was one that elevated the almost entirely worthless depressive black metal sub-genre to heights of excellence and artistic mastery. But, how would the band fair after all these years? Could they make an album as equally powerful and emotional as, 'Il était une forêt...?'

'L'aube' kicks off the album off gently with soaring violins and acoustic guitars that gradually build towards an epic climax, which seems quite simply unreal for metal musicians to pull off. No, it sounds more like something you'd hear in a video game or film score, which to me is simply marvelous. 'Les Forges' follows and from the get go those familiar Gris screams greet the listener, but the music itself is different from the debut. Opting for a cleaner production, this song and the many that follow make greater usage of the cello and violin, which was previously only heard on one Gris song. Similarly, there's also an increase of acoustics throughout the album, but what truly remains is that same sense of melancholic beauty that only Gris is capable of. In this particular song they pour it on hard, too, and similarly to the first song this one builds in a majestic manner that simply reaches a point of being overwhelmingly bleak. There's also a few shorter neo classical instrumentals that serve as introductions to the longer songs, but they are by no means fillers, as each one is impressive.

'À l'âme enflammée, l'äme constellée...' is spread out between two discs and runs for just about eighty minutes of music, which makes it not an easily acceptable record from the get go, even more so if you were expecting a part two of the debut. Another thing that makes the album challenging is its variant speeds, as it moves from a mid pace to slower dirges, some speedy blasting parts like those seen in 'Igneus,' and of course the calm acoustic and neo classical sections really have the musics speed all over the place. Another characteristic is that the album has fewer vocals, although these instrumental parts seem to instantly recall memories, both good and bad, every time I hear them. It all sounds a bit weird, perhaps, but it works, and it works fairly well.

Throughout the album Gris takes the listener on an emotional and sometimes painful, but always gorgeous and delicate journey. I personally found myself having to listen to the album a few times, because there's so much packed into this album that its easily possibly to miss something. However, once you give it that 3rd or fourth listen it really starts to reveal itself a lot more and every last note really starts to sink in and effect you, too. Its painfully beautiful, memorable and emotional and easily one of the best records released in 2013. I'll admit it does have some spots that could probably have been trimmed down a little, but when you approach the album as a whole it all unfolds and flows well enough for me.

Additionally, I wouldn't hesitate to say that Gris has triumphed once again, whether or not its better than the debut is entirely up to you. What I do know is that I enjoy this album tremendously. And that is all.

Originally wrote for, Lunar Hypnosis:

Majestic... - 90%

DEATHPORTAL, July 9th, 2013

Gris is a Canadian black metal outfit that has been active since 2004, originally known as Niflheim. This two-piece released their first endeavor, Neurasthénie, before changing their name to Gris in 2006. In 2007, they released their debut full-length under their new moniker, Il Était une Forêt.... The band plays an orchestral atmospheric breed of black metal that is rather bleak, yet astoundingly beautiful in jest. Both members amalgamate their talents as multi-instumentalists to give the band an epic sense of awe through-out their substantially written songs. Their melancholic sound swirls around a variety of themes pertaining to emotion and spirituality. This is heavy music in more than one sense. However, it maintains a soothing vibe of an almost meditative experience.

Gris are set to unfurl their latest masterpiece entitled, À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée..., July 9th. With this release, the band furthers themselves as masters of their craft. À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée... is an atmospheric journey deep within the darker, somber realms of the soul. Intricate, moody and perplexing, the album levitates through a series of ten thoughtful tracks. As with their previous albums, the songs remain substantial in length, and the album over all reaches a playing time of eighty minutes.

Gris showcase their talents with a heavy use of strings and melodic acoustic interludes laced with black metal of a doom-inspired nature. Their musicianship is unmatched and À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée... flourishes with a full, bright sound, impressive for a two-man band. The music itself shimmers and wisps with dissonance and often the use of builds creates a suspenseful vibe that ignites into affecting explosions. À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée... echo's feelings of loss and resignation as highlighted through its ethereal sound and tortured vocal performance.

Gris has produced a pure paradigm and their greatest work to date. À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée... is a very serious record and for those with the patience and aptitude that seek more than just a "toe-tapper". It is a very introspective work; the type of album that is best experienced through headphones and commands the total attention of its listener to gather the full appreciation it wholly deserves. However, it is a work of absolute brilliance, and for those able to settle deep within it, it remains an unequivocal paramount experience.
***Originally written for and by

Canadian Beacon - 87%

autothrall, July 9th, 2013

2007's Il Était une Forêt... was an album recommended to me about a dozen times, by more than one person who considered it the greatest metal recording of that particular year. But when I at last got around to hearing it I wasn't too impressed beyond that gorgeous, dirty guitar tone balanced upon the precipice between scintillating beauty and the suicidal void. At 60 minutes, there were definitely some opportunities to get lost, as well as bored, but Gris is nothing if not ambitious, so you have to take it all in stride. That ambition continues through their long anticipated follow-up, À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée..., which is a rather stunning turn of events towards a more richly produced palette of glimmering acoustics, uplifting folk/world music and better produced metal progressions that retain their black metal bleakness but lack the fuzz of the debut. Normally, that might prove a turnoff, since I enjoy some grit in my suffering, but with two discs and 80 minutes of material, I have to admit that this is an adventurous sophomore I easily prefer to its predecessor...

I enjoy an album where the acoustic/folk guitar sequences actually feel 'cared about', as if a great amount of effort were placed in their inception and they're not just being paraded about as a window dressing for the band's eclectic self-image, and this is clearly one of those places. Each of these compositions, whether the brighter and captivating intro to the first disc "L'Aube" or the more brooding, minimalistic "Sem" interlude, or even their placement in the longer 11+ minute centerpiece tracks, has been meticulously carved out of the wood, fields and waters of the wilderness surrounding the band, and fashioned into sometime moody or downright beautiful. Further string sections inebriate the tracks with the range and atmosphere of a fully staffed orchestra, giving the listener an impression he or she is at the symphony hall watching a conductor more than listening through a metal record, and the commonly implemented, cleaner, feminine crooning is wisely relegated to pure atmosphere, like a steady breeze above the trees that often intersects with the revelatory rush of the turbulent river waters below. In terms of pure arrangement, this is wonderful...

But À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée... is, after all, a metal record, and its authors pull their heads out of the clouds often enough to provide is with a crushing range of bright, searing chord progressions that intertwine fairly seamlessly with all of the vocals, drums and other instrumentation. To prove this isn't just chamber music for your grandparents, the black rasps here are drawn and quartered out to unpredictable levels of suffering, which creates an immediately bewildering contrast when they segue into some classical passage. Gris is meting out raw fucking emotion here, not the usual sort of black metal frontmanship where the inflection feels like it's monotonously being read from a page. No, Icare seems to just be staring at something and howling his lungs out in Romantic desperation, and it translates into a far less predictable performance which is instantly more compelling to experience. There are admittedly some points at which this becomes almost caricature, but that's really the point. It is only vaguely scripted agony, and he is going to wrench whatever he can out of that fleshy frame.

Are the metal components as richly realized as their surrounding arrangements? No, especially in a tune like "Dil" where the chord progressions are often rather threadbare and uninteresting, but the very fact of their existence still helps to support the record's passive/aggressive nature. The real exhilaration will almost always be felt around these parts, but it helps ground off all those electric chills you feel from the orchestration. The drums, on the other hand, are quite passionate and inspired, especially the fills in spots like "Seizième prière" where they pick up alongside the heavier chords. It's almost like the conglomeration of a rustic tribal drum circle from the Great White North fused together into a single spirit. Go forth, great arbiter of cadence! Bass lines are likewise really nice here, with a thick and plugging tone that often enough swerves away from the rhythm guitar notation to groove along with the confidence of a modern progressive rocker. But sadly the distorted guitars, while not disposable by any means, are perhaps the least compelling aspect of the music. Important in placement, to suffuse the songs with a heavy sadness, yet not incredibly melodic.

Ultimately, though, any interstices between the rapturous emotional release of Gris' ideas are more than made up for when the solemn or ethereal clean vocals, the orchestration, the percussion and the riffing all comes together in tidal bombast. It's a record of 'moments', but those are evenly balanced between its most intense crossroads and unassuming, rural breaks in the action. The interaction between shorter and longer tracks doesn't impede this Quebecois flow of creativity nearly as much as I thought it might when I first looked over the playlist. It's all consistent, at times beautiful, and at times haunting. Even where I might have become mildly bored, I can't deny that this duo put an enormous amount of care and love into what they were doing. Grandiose, but genuine. Some fans might rue the lack of grimier, wrist-cutting guitars as the dominant drive in the music, but if this was the trade-off, then I'll take it. Perfect it is not, but worth owning it most definitely is. Magnificent, really, and while it's a bit different from the other great Quebec recordings I've heard lately off Sepulchral Productions (Neige Éternelle, Monarque, etc), À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée... has further convinced me that this scene is about to reach critical mass... Do continue!