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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.