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Surprisingly catchy and pop-friendly folk BM - 70%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, February 24th, 2015

This album's name translates from Old(?) French into English as "Ballad against the enemies of France" and the lyrics of the songs, some of which are drawn from various sources, are rallying cries to Peste Noire man Famine's nationalist vision of France. This vision includes PN's disdain for contemporary France as he sees it: culturally degenerate, riddled with imported ideas and ideologies that espouse multiculturalism, post-modernism, identity politics and welfare-state socialism that attracts undesirable immigrants whose customs weaken native French culture.

Spewing disgust, contempt and maybe no little self-loathing in turns, the recording lurches about with glee but the deliberate punk insolence is a thin veneer for some excellent musicianship, beautifully fluid guitar melodies and a tight production. The sound is very clear and sharp and in most songs all the music, especially the soloing lead guitar, is very clear. The bulk of the recording is straightforward melodic black metal with a clean if bombastic edge but as can be expected Famine tosses out unexpected folk-influenced pieces like the very short a cappella male / female duet "La France Bouge - Par K.P.N. (Chant de l'Action française)" which starts out fairly innocently but quickly converts into a shocking and sinister track as the lyrics quickly turn from a rally to arms into betrayal and subservience, and "Rance Black Metal de France" with its early male chorus, a (deliberately) badly played harmonica and bouncy rhythms.

The standard of musicianship is high with a strong emphasis on lead guitar melody and there's an equally strong accent on rock-out rhythms, crisp percussion and very catchy pop-friendly tunes and riffing. Oddly Peste Noire don't go in for anthemic songs, given its general nationalist orientation and lyrical subject matter which ranges from historical themes to appeals to French national pride; instead Famine plies the hidden niches of musical culture and finds odd and eccentric but very French ditties like the decaying-piano instrumental passages in "Concerto Pour Cloportes" and "Requiem pour Nioka (Á un Berger-Allemand)". It's these unexpected detours that lift the album from an otherwise hard-edged and aggressive pose not that different from the stance of other BM bands into another realm where the band reveals a surprising vulnerable tenderness.

For all the quirkiness, the folky elements and punky insolence that drives Famine to "rubbish" his work (while polishing it at the same time) into something so bad it actually turns out good, this album comes out sounding surprisingly commercial, as much melodic hard rock with a punk edge as it is black metal. Had it been released not as a black metal album but in indie-music / alternative mainstream genre charts with moderated lyrics, "Ballade ..." might have done very well.