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A cold, desolate album - 83%

Thumbman, April 7th, 2011

Neurasthénie, Gris's debut album, was originally released under the band name Niflheim. When Niflheim changed their name to Gris, band member Orion changed his pseudonym to Icare. Gris play depressive black metal with a distinct atmosphere. On this album they developed their sound, on their next album they perfected it. While this album doesn't really compare to the genius that is 2007's Il Était une Forêt..., it is still a rewarding listen to fans of depressive black metal.

This album evokes a sense of cold isolation. Some people say that if hell exists, it would be a cold desolate wasteland, instead of an overcrowded burning dystopia. This album captures the essence of that sentiment. Neurasthénie gives off a feeling of almost suicidal loneliness. The tortured shrieks, the grainy guitars and the cold ambiance all culminate to reach this desolate effect.

Neurasthénie is both beautiful and ugly at the same time. Icare's rasps are really something else. At times they feel completely devoid of humanity, sounding like a cold, blistering icy wind, rather than something that has come from a man. The guitars also embody ugliness, being extremely harsh and distorted. The beauty of this album comes from mesmerizing repetition. There is often a majestic keyboard droning in the background or a simple piano line playing softly. They don't need to be complicated to give off a sense of beauty. Ugly parts like the menacing riff to "Aux Serres de la Mélancolie" provide a stark contrast to uplifting sections such as the piano line near the end of "Elder Moons." These two sounds work really well when woven together by Gris.

If you are looking to get into Gris, absolutely do not start with Neurasthénie. This album is Gris in its infant stage. It would be a much better idea to start with the album that came after this. While most fans of depressive black metal will find this album to be a very worthwhile listen, if you aren't into depressive black metal this album probably won't be your thing.

Not bad but lacking spark and inspiration - 62%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, October 24th, 2007

The band's name on this CD is Niflheim but the guys have now switched to a new name Gris so from here on I'll refer to the band as Gris. When I first heard this album I was surprised to hear a resemblance to another French Canadian BM act Sombres Forets but maybe that's no big surprise as both acts are based in Montreal and the same label Sepulchral Productions handles their output so the guys obviously know each other. Like Sombres Forets, the duo play a slow funereal style of BM with some acoustic guitar or quiet clean-toned electric guitar passages or tracks in amongst the fuzzing BM and the doomy beats.

An early song "The Cold Wind Of My Breath Is Always Blowing" sets the pace with the emphatic plodding drum beats, fairly basic repetitive guitar riffs, crabby BM vocals courtesy of Orion and a bit of lead guitar in the middle of the piece. It feels like a slow warm-up to the rest of the album. "Lueur D'Ombre" is perhaps the least song-like track, it's mostly a repetitive and slow loop done on distorted guitar, drumsticks tapping on a cymbal and cold keyboard tones while Orion rasps away, his throat eroding steadily from the sandpaper singing, and after an agonising accumulation of tension and pain the song's release comes with the drummer (Orion again) pounding all his hurt into the skins.

Later tracks become slightly more melodic and are almost pop-oriented - this is where the similarity with Sombres Forets is most obvious. "Where So Many Tombs Were Forgotten" introduces a simple plaintive melody into the slow music and there's a bit more variety in the rhythms as there are now drum rolls. This turns out to be a complex song with several changes in pace and rhythm and a melancoly solo guitar finishes it off.

Alas the momentum that was built up with "Where So Many Tombs ..." is lost in the follow-up all-acoustic guitar instrumental "Elder Moons": lovely piece though it is with tinkling keyboard tones, it is a fairly long-ish track for what it does and the following track "Funerailles" has to re-establish and build up the energy again. This is a slow lumbering song with sad piano melodies, raw minimal guitar riffs and Orion wailing in the background.

"Aux Serres De La Melancolie" has a majestic though still plodding rhythm and a Burzum-like / Odinpop feel in the riffs: not bad for a final track and one of the better pieces on this album together with "Where So Many Tombs ..." and "Lueur D'Ombre". As with "Where So Many Tombs ...", this last song features rhythm changes which add interest to an otherwise repetitive piece.

Not a bad recording overall but to me it seems very workman-like and lacking in spark and inspiration in the music. The pace is about slow to medium-fast but some songs are on the lumbering side and perhaps some speedy songs here and there could have shaken things up a bit and added much-needed energy and drive to the album. Melodies and riffs are not very remarkable and I think Gris could go further in an Odinpop-like direction and try for something more immediate and memorable to help lift the music and maintain listener attention. The piano-playing is one place to start with experimenting with a more catchy melodic direction: the combination of harsh buzzing BM guitars and clean piano tones isn't common in BM and there could be creative opportunities for the musicians to explore there. At the same time by emphasising the BM guitars / clean keyboards contrast, the band would have a more definite musical identity.