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PN are the worst, most charming band ever - 83%

lord_ghengis, January 9th, 2014

Peste Noire were an awesome black metal band. They were a ridiculously fucking awesome black metal band. I couldn't do a particularly interesting review of Macabre Trancedence or La sanie des si├Ęcles, because they're just straight up, really enjoyable and genuine black metal albums full of raw emotion, harsh instrumentation, spiteful passion, and all that good stuff. Those are boring to talk about. You want genuinely great, artistically valid BM? Listen to early Peste Noire, 'nuff said, review done. Want to listen to perplexingly great BM created from a mangled and worthless mind? Listen to this.

I'm not sure what happened around 2007, but there must have been some kind of mass French brain haemorrhage because Famine's mind wound up fuuuuuucccccccckeed, and despite having obvious mental failings he managed to unite others from his nation in his woeful dream. Folkfuck Folie was a strange and awkward transition away from straight up brilliant black metal to the sort of weird black/punk/rock/folk/whatever that's on offer here, but it still had a few self respecting musicians involved to still make it feel like a semi-professional band was behind it. This here feels like Famine's solitary vision of being as horrid as humanly possible, and it's completely loveable for it. I hate to posit an argument based on artistic purpose beyond the product placed in front of you, but this whole album screams "I am trying to make the most horrible thing ever" and I love it despite of, hell, probably because of that obnoxious attitude. This album is a glorious banner flying for every atrocious musical idea ever conceived, and somehow uses them wonderfully. This is produced terribly, played abysmally, creatively retarded and insultingly stupid, and fuck it, it rules.

This album is clearly designed to sound as awful as possible. The guitar sound here is both scratchy to the point of being annoying, and distorted and relaxed enough to suck all rocking qualities out of the concept. The instrumentation is laughably bad and the songwriting is, if anything, more embarrassingly shameful. Oddly enough, this is what I find most endearing about it, it's horrid, lighthearted music, but it actually feels fun and lighthearted without being an all out joke, and most importantly I just find it utterly charming. As that would imply, the actual enjoyment for any given listen is purely determined by the listener's willingness to set aside the obnoxiousness and find joy in all its flaws and hateful personality, but anyone willing to ju-... God... just writing that made me feel like some kind of defensive fanboy refusing to admit his little pet band got sucky... I promise you, this has character and all that silly abstract stuff in quantities great enough to more than make up for its surface shortcomings, it's the only album in the world that does this for me.

This album is kinda like a hobbled and disfigured puppy with lots of aggression issues but no teeth to bite with, which also happens to be so dumb you need to actively stop it from jumping into open fires all the time. It has no authentic positive traits, it genuinely dislikes you personally and wishes you have a bad time, and stubbornly refuses to let you enjoy yourself by constant reminders of how terrible it is, but its abject shittiness is what makes it so endearing. Famine is a racist nutjob who wants to make bad music, but I can't help but want to give the little scamp a big scratch behind the ear.

The music on offer is highly rockish really, it's weird and roomy lo-fi punk-meets-surfer rock-ish stuff with unmusical and pissed off drunken black metal vocals and only a few metallic riffs. It's super thin and harsh sounding for sure, but the notes are quite loose and jangly, not dissimilar to some of the more psychedelic takes on BM, albeit with less focus and musical proficiency than would usually be expected of bands doing that sort of thing, so it doesn't quite fit as a real black metal sound. Interestingly enough, it is both a hard listen and completely passive. The tempos are uniformly tame, and the lack of any sort of low end definitely stops this from ever feeling like it has any real metal vigor to it. It's all quite relaxed riff-wise, never trying to be too extreme or too complex, just jangly open chords, vaguely melodic pluckings, and kinda-tremolos mixed with catchier hook based rock riffs; it's really quite pleasant to the ear given how sloppy the playing is and how shrill and tinny the guitars are. Really as far as genuine metal goes, "A La Mortaille!" and "Rance Black Metal De France" are the only songs that fit the description overall with enjoyable arpeggio riffs and little bursts of violence here and there, so the sheer abundance of weird blackened punk/folk/rock over anything else out there makes the album pretty interesting at the very least.

I guess the fact that it's not a cartoonishly bad basic concept at the core is what leaves me more susceptible to the charms on offer than I usually would be. It's different and engrossing due to its DIY no-fucks-given attitude, and many of the wandering and noodly riffs are downright catchy despite the crazily sloppy and half-assed aesthetic; really with some minor tweaks this could be genuinely good music. Even in its ugly form this doesn't sound too bad in of itself, and bands like Oranssi Pazuzu have shown that the idea can be downright good, but the production here kinda ruins any hopes for the listener getting any undiluted joy from the music. This is obviously very distorted and mangled, but still clearly defined between every single string hit, even on bigger power chords. They've really played up the echoing nature of the strings, so much so that every echoing twang stands out drastically from any that are played close to it, and then they've tried really hard to give the instrument the tone of flicking an empty Coke can despite all the lingering sustain. It's... ugly, and not in a good way. It doesn't add atmosphere or extremity like a good raw production should do, instead it merely makes the already quirky instrumentation sound downright goofy.

With that said you still end up with mostly quirky and intriguing basic sound, with some dopey production no doubt, but it's worthy of a passing interest and some form of enjoyment in itself. The unique charm of it would likely run out before the forty minute run time completed, but luckily Famine went one step further and lost his fucking mind in a more complete fashion by being intensely, unforgivably shitty in bursts of pure glorious failure. The numerous solos here are out of tune, punkish and noisy, and they're just perfect don't-give-a-fuck messy solos. They're not phrased carefully, they're not technically complex and they're not melodically intelligent, they're just bursts of hectic, sloppy energy or meandering, demented strangeness and they're all addictive as hell.

But it's the noises that come out of Famine's mouth which really illicit the biggest disgust/joy smiles in me. He overdoes his performance in the most marvelously stupid ways possible and it always makes me happy; he's just so committed to them. Obviously his primary delivery approach is his usually harsh and ugly wet snarl, with a few massively powerful roars to kick you back into your seat; nothing as full on as say, "Spleen" off the first demo, but certainly microphone breaking enough to do the job. However, he's also added in some much sillier things, from folkish chants delivered with the full gremlin snarl, to utterly incompetent clean singing attempts which are often harmonised with equally poor female ones, to the utterly hilarious yet infectious "La la la" hook on "La Mesniee Mordrissoire", to the horrendous but unforgettable harmonica solo on "Rance Black Metal De France". Almost all of these more out there touches are objectively terrible, but they always put a ridiculously huge grin on my face and add in a lot of life and vigor to the pretty laid back riffing. It's these sudden bursts of awfulness that really kick the album into being something memorable and endearing instead of just something quirky.

Despite being amazingly bad/good as it is, Famine seemed to feel Peste Noire was still far too tasteful and made some line up changes. The less apparent but probably more damning was dropping his previously competent drummer in favor of Andy Julia. Despite years of experience in many bands, he puts in a performance mostly fitting of a 13 year old in his first year playing. He plods drab rock beats awkwardly and sloppily, throws in pathetic three note fills with no payoff, and never, ever raises the intensity beyond "I am struggling to keep up with this 150bpm song". He constantly aims to play the most simplistic and dumbed down performance humanly possible, yet still fucks it up half the time. Honestly, his performance is the real big blight on the album, with his bad performance basically just being bad-bad, not good-bad. Sloppy, boring drums are not charming enough to make up for the fact that they're sloppy and boring; the poor quality of the drums doesn't add to zaniness of the album, it takes away from it.

Joining Julia is Audrey Sylvain of Amesoeurs fame. While she has elsewhere proven to be an outright talented musician in other realms, she definitely seems to be on the same page as Famine when it comes to trying to be as awful as possible here. She is a true anti-triple threat; can't sing, can't play, can't write. I'd make some horribly tasteless and sexist statement about how she's only in the band for sexual purposes, but I get the feeling she's so committed to the album's vile concept that she refuses to be within two hundred feet of another band member without covering herself in a mixture of chicken grease and centipede shells to make sure she's suitably unappealing. Her voice is awfully pitchy, frequently off time, and the semi-operatic vocal lines she attempts have absolutely no place in music this quaint and dinky. Her keyboard writing is exceptionally simple and laughable, yet she still messes up with alarming frequency. I mostly find these short bursts of abject failure a nice enough foil to Famine's core shittiness, serving the same role of really hitting you with a Tyson punch of hilarious abhorrence between all the quirky stuff, but the band frequently dumps her little interludes right next to other interludes. Obviously this is another attempt to do more things which are universally considered bad musical ideas out of spite towards the listener, but it works a little too well and makes these parts a little grating at times.

Look, I know how flimsy this argument is. I hate this argument. I've sat in impotent rage as people praise other stupidly "different" and "creative" albums which sound horrible for how one of a kind they are and how they're "artistically bold" or some shit, but never actually pointing out that anything on the album is good, but yeah I'm doing that here. I know the "La La La" thing is terrible, but I can't stop humming/squawking it, I know the Famine can't play the instrument but I'd never air harmonica'd until I heard this. This isn't good simply due to the virtue to the fact it's weird, it's good because of a certain... I don't want to say authenticity, because this album is most definitely a great big mask and all for show, but it has a very honest and defined character to it.

This doesn't feel like a "joke" despite being deliberately bad and quite tongue in cheek, it feels like quite an honest attempt to scream "Fuck you, you thought Folkfuck was a shitty sounding album with dopey ideas, try this on for size!" at anyone that will listen. That sort of indignant and stand offish but goofy and silly attitude is ever present through the music and I can't help but find it really endearing. To put it this way, the album feels like a pure distillation of Famine's ridiculous public persona: dirty, hateful, filled with pure disdain towards his peers and fans, but awkwardly funny and charming nonetheless. If Ballade cuntre lo Anemi Francor was a human being, it'd be the sort of person you could gladly get drunk with in a seedy bar despite the fact that he would be open about disliking you right to your face. Between the spilled drinks, angry glares and frequent, extremely offensive outbursts at random patrons he didn't like the faces of, he'd tell you really crazy and interesting stories in really exuberant and fun ways, overflowing with so much animation and vigor it'd be worth the stabbing risk. The album is pretty much a racist, French Vinny Jones I guess.

It's not all outright bad to be perfectly honest. For all the time I've spent laughing at the slackness, the core sound of the album is actually pretty listenable; weird and delivered terribly, yes, but it's pretty alright. It's an album of badly delivered decent but endearing riffs, with tactical nuke blasts of pure shittiness to really press home a "it's so bad it's good" sort of mood, and for me it actually works somehow. Most deliberately bad stuff tends to be more so-bad-it's-funny and doesn't resonate with much depth, such as Crotchduster or Anal Cunt, but this is really the only album I can think of that's managed to actually pull off being so bad it comes right back around to being truly enjoyable. It's almost entirely done through the amount of charismatic personality Famine has been able to inject into this sound and it really feels like a one of a kind sort of experience for that reason, so here's hoping I'll never be so dumbfounded trying to comprehend my own enjoyment of an album in the future. It's bad for sure, but no one will ever be this good at being this bad again.