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European Vampirism - 90%

we hope you die, February 5th, 2019

Just as for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so it is that for every Dimmu Borgir, there was a step further towards obscurity almost beyond human comprehension, deep in the bowls of the underground.

France’s Mutiilation is the brainchild of one Meyhna’ch. He was a member of a small group of bands known as Les Legions Noires, France’s answer to the Norwegian black circle. But a heroin addiction saw him eventually ejected from this circle, and whatever benefits that entailed were suspended (I’m assuming some sort of points card that gives you money off fuel had to be handed in). Now, before I go on I must make one thing clear: French black metal is not entry level. Vlad Tepes, Belketre, Black Murder, these artists produced some of the most unlistenable music possible, even by black metal’s incredibly high bar. I tell you this, so that when I say that Mutiilation were one of the more accessible artists of Les Legions Noires, you understand that Mutiilation’s music is still kissing the edge of the sonic abyss.

After a series of demos and EPs came 1995’s LP ‘Vampires of Black Imperial Blood’, something of a cult classic among fans of lo-fi, obscure metal. Yet more EPs and demos followed, leaving fans of the long-form release to wait until 1999 for ‘Remains of a Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul’. But the wait was well rewarded. There is something about this release that stands out in French black metal, and black metal in general. This is the dawn of depressive black metal. A much maligned subgenre, but if played with conviction it can offer much intrigue.

Drums sound like they are being played underwater, with very simple beats underpinning razor sharp distorted guitars and non-existent bass. The riffs are made up of simple minor scale runs, played either funereally slow or at a more galloping pace. Occasionally they are all but drowned out by vocals of such melodramatic despair that it simply engulfs the entire music in its pained screeches and howls. But this is more than just an over-the-top rumination on existence. The compositions unfold with more maturity than any other Mutiilation release.

They evolve like a simple symphony. Motifs are presented to the listener before the music meanders into a new set of simple but well thought out chord progressions, and then the music returns to the original motif. But the listener sees this original motif in a new light having lived through the whole composition. Context is not a myth. The music that has gone before sheds new light and meaning on the opening riff once it is revisited. This works like poetry. The beginning of a sentence changes meaning based on how it ends. And in a longer form this is how narrative structures work. ROARDCS may be a relatively simple example of this compositional method, but it is still exemplary at what sets out to achieve.

Simple solos or (as I prefer to call them) screeching leads, lend drama and tension to this music from the bowls of human despair. This is not the music of strength, nor of the boundlessness of nature. This is suicidal and depressive black metal at its best. Admittedly the competition in this subgenre is universally weak, but this album’s appeal as a piece of art in its own right should resonate well beyond the obscure rock under which Les Legions Noires resided. Of course, it’s not for everyone, and one could be forgiven for discarding it as worthless noise.

I would sincerely recommend both this album. But with a few caveats. This ain’t entry level black metal. And not because it’s ‘heavier’. But because it is more abrasive in every way. The shitty production, the odd compositional choices, the overbearing vocals. It is not simply harder to get into, it is harder to take seriously. But ‘Remains of a Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul’, is recognisable as music, so make sure you pass through the likes of Mutiilation before moving on to other Les Legions Noires metal. Xasthur and Leviathan fans may be in for a shock otherwise.

Originally published at Hate Meditations