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A Successful Collaboration. - 90%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 18th, 2009

A universal feeling of immeasurable joy overcame us black metal fans when the news of a collaboration between two of Canada’s super powers hit the crowd. Both Gris and Sombres Forêts are regarded as two of the most promising bands in the black metal genre and not just in Canada, but worldwide. With Gris’ masterminds Neptune and Orion (now known as Icare), life started in an ordinary fashion in the form of Niflheim, a generic entity in comparison to Gris, what the band would become known as from 2006 onwards. Essentially, ‘Il Était une Forêt…’ is the debut full-length of this new band, with a distinctively new sound. It marked a change in fortunes and people began to take notice of the previously neglected Canadian scene which probably fell foul to North American stereotypes. In discussions over the most promising scenes, Canada is only ever mentioned by those whose true nature is to explore. With the likes of Germany gaining most of the headlines, Canada has quietly been juicing up its own underground with the inclusion of bands like Gris and a more developed Sombres Forêts, who established themselves as a household name when ‘Royaume De Glace’ unleashed its might upon the world only last year.

So, as you can imagination, myself and thousands of others were simply overjoyed when the two announced the arrival of a collaborative effort into the black metal scene which has definitely seen a marked rejuvenation in the past couple of years. For those who consider it to be dead, take a trip to the cold Canadian shores and you’ll be sure to find some treasures. The general consensus from what I’ve read is that the vast majority of people have been overwhelmed by the brilliance of this intriguing collaboration. Certain other hardcore fans have deemed themselves in no position to judge this outfit as of yet because they’re finding it hard to stomach the differences between this band and the other two. Before this self-titled debut was released into the wilderness, the bands musicians themselves warned followers not to expect a record that is, essentially, Gris and Sombres Forêts because they would be wholeheartedly disappointed with the outcome. It would seem that some people did not heed the warnings and have expected this band to be a replica, or hybrid of the aforementioned two. Although my own personal expectations were high, I did not have any notion as to what this band would actually sound like.

I took the warnings as a sign that Miserere Luminis would be a completely unrecognisable creation in comparison to the two aforementioned Canadian giants with whom the musicians also play their trade with. However, the thought that this band was going to be unrecognisable in comparison to the other two has been unfounded. There are definitive similarities between Miserere Luminis, Gris and Sombres Forêts. I find this to be particularly true in regards to Sombres Forêts, Annatar’s sole creation. Since Annatar provides, and remarkably well, vocals for Miserere Luminis too (or, at least, I assume it is him on vocals for the most part - both he and Icare sound so similar!), his input is initially the one to be felt in full force. His vocals have always drawn admiration from fans and probably musicians alike. He has an innate ability at being able to produce a voice for feelings like pain and loss. I had initially expected Icare to provide the main brunt of the vocals, but he does not. Personally speaking, I find it hard to distinguish which of the two is technically better. Both Annatar and Icare have different sounds, though they portray the same ideas equally well.

Although I cannot adjudicate to say which of the two is the better vocalist, I can state however that Annatar’s emotive voice suit’s the style of Miserere Luminis well and, in essence, that is all that matters. I would be interested to hear Icare provide the main source of vocals on the sophomore, if there is a sophomore. In terms of the instrumental projection, I feel that Miserere Luminis is closer in sound to Sombres Forêts, particularly in terms of the production used on the record. It’s a lot less raw than Gris’ sound and with the cleaner style, Annatar is able to produce some of his best vocal styling as he is more adept at portraying his pain over a cleaner sound than Icare, whose voice suit’s the typically bleak sound the Gris production brings to the bands atmospheric characteristics. Though the entirely instrumental introduction to the record is misleading, Miserere Luminis waste no time in showcasing precisely what this band is all about by laying down sturdy foundations with some solid song writing.

‘Le Mal Des Siecles’ opens in a laid back fashion with the guitar effects echoing into the distance and beyond, but then the full force of Miserere Luminis’ sound comes into contact with the listener who tries desperately to anticipate the every move of the band, but the experimental style of the structures doesn’t allow any sense of anticipation creep into their game. The familiar voice of Annatar is filtered in and the collaborative effort is underway and already highlighting the brilliant minds of the musicians on offer as each audible remnant of the song is felt passionately. Sound wise, though the production gives me a feeling of latter day Sombres Forêts, the music is especially different from both bands. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there is a focus on the bass, not just on the opening non-instrumental song, but the entire record. I’m unaware of who provides which section, but I have a feeling Neptune provides the bass. In some ways, it reminds me of the multi-functional bass section of the punk inspired Amesoeurs. The bass is both illuminated and vibrant amidst the light production style which doesn’t allow the distortion of the guitars to become too overwhelming at any stage. There are even some smaller post-rock vibes from the record, particularly on the instrumental song ‘IV’. The bass, in particular, reminds me of the up-and-coming post-rock band Irepress.

Much like Gris and Sombres Forêts sophomore record, Miserere Luminis focus on a sense of beauty in the surrounding atmospherics and though this conception does not use a vast number of acoustics (though they are scattered here and there, most notably in the beautiful self-titled song), or clean vocals, its strength is in the collaborative efforts of the instrumentation, from the free roaming bass, to the impressive guitars which lay down some luscious riffs under the merciless voice of Annatar. Songs like ‘Ciel Tragique’, which happens to be my personal favourite, highlights the difference in atmosphere between this band and the other two, but also the fact that atmosphere is still important to the musicians and this individual act which exudes a really echoing vibe through the double bass and somewhat haunting guitarmanship. All-in-all, I’m very impressed by the collaboration, though I would have liked to have seen a heavier dose of melancholy supplied by a higher presence from the piano. It has a very groovy underlying bass, splendid melodies and lots of atmosphere. Though it may vary from both Gris and Sombres Forêts, Miserere Luminis are brilliant in their own right. This band has an equally exciting future ahead of them.