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Nightmare music - 80%

forfrosne, March 1st, 2017

This raging cacophony of violent negativity is almost too much to take in on one listen, and certainly demands repeated, careful listens with an open mind. The core of this French band's sound draws on the legacy of their country's vibrant black metal scene, but despite its concise runtime, the band also explore a surprisingly diverse range of musical textures and forms from raw, harsh noise and thundering beats to drone metal. In the hands of Plebeian Grandstand, guitars are turned into contorted, terrifying instruments; the chaotic, dissonant chords and riffs turn order into chaos and then both are lost to the swirling madness at the heart of this record. This extreme sensibility is compounded by the frenetic blastbeats and unpredictable fills, as well as the unhinged vocal-work of Adrien Broué.

The album was clearly thoughtfully conceived from start to finish, such that while the core of the album is comprised of the more straightforward black metal songs such as the aggressive "Low Empire", the menacing "Tributes and Oblivion", dirge-like "Oculi Lac" and mind-bending "Eros Culture", these are also complemented by more experimental pieces. The brief opener "Mal du siècle" (French: Evil of the century) sets the album's consistently dark tone, while the harsh noise, rumbling bass, and jarring feedback of interlude "Mineral Tears" neatly sets up the droning weight of "Oculi Lac". And on "Tame the Shapes", the band construct an imposing wall of dissonant, reverb-heavy drone metal, drenched in noise and feedback, which reaches its crescendo at the end. The album ends with "Eros Culture", perhaps my favourite song on the album, a passionate, twisted animal of a track, which concludes with a single incredibly eerie, dissonant riff played over the relentless blastbeats, growing louder and noisier until the track comes to an abrupt close.

False Highs, True Lows is one of the most aggressively negative, nightmarish records you'll ever have the pleasure of hearing. It embeds itself in your head and stays there, inflicting its malicious energies on the listener long after they have put the album aside. And yet there is something beautiful and fascinating about the complexity and thoughtfulness of this record, that inspires a kind of morbid fascination. Repeated listens expose new, darker depths to one of 2016's finest metal albums.

Review originally written for Metal Void.

Not for the plebs - 95%

Homo Sapiens Metallis, May 2nd, 2016

How does one combine the tempestuous technicality of mathcore, the ravaging intensity of powerviolence and the hivernal atmosphere of black metal, without making all these components sound so poorly pieced together that they may as well be 3 different bands recorded separately, but then mixed together during the mastering of the album? Well, whatever the solution to this dilemma may be, it is probably answered by the newest Plebeian Grandstand’s release “False Highs, True Lows” that takes the rmost recognizable elements of all of these genres, and shapes them into a satisfactory and seamless malice that was already established on their sophomore effort.

From its first minute, this album avoids gimmicks and sidetracks. No, you won’t be hearing non-stop tremolos and blast beats, however technical they are, as the calculated commotion with sizzle down into more atmospheric segues, often some mid-paced parts with quite a lot of feedback from the guitars, but it will never allow you a comfortable and laidback approach to it. The drums will proceed with meticulous mastery, and guitar with piercing pedantry to sow their aural assault and discord. Imagine Mutilation Rites with aggression amplified by a thousandfold. Imagine Liturgy if they ventured outside the safe confines of their brand of avant garde blackness, and dared to add some credulity and substance to their output. This is how tormented and terrorizing these guys are. And it is something you will experience from the very start, with the first track proper “Low Culture” switching tempos every second. “Volition” seemingly starts in a much more restrained manner, but even when blast beats are omitted, the furious and thunderous double bass has you awaiting another eruption, before it occurs in all its adorable morbidity. “Tame the Shapes” once more dials the tempo down, but adds some welcome heaviness to the album, with some improvised noodling escalating to a draining and crushing climax. Each track is a miniature masterpiece, but the named ones are perhaps the most memorable, if this term is even applicable to this uncompromising animosity.

With 35 minutes of pure dexterity and delicacy in instrumental department, and the inescapable prowess in songwriting without which most of the music played at such speed would easily fall apart, it is difficult to notice anything outright inadequate about this release. Certainly, the duration is not the best part of it, but diluting it into a more drawn-out experience would definitely damage the brilliance that seeps from every note here. With only six proper tracks, it indeed seems as something fit for temporary consumption and abrupt neglect, but the replay value is imposing, as it is impossible to quickly absorb and analyze the dizziness and discombobulation that this album is so riddled with. I would recommend this album to everyone, but as I’m not sure whether sound can trigger epileptic seizures, I will restrain myself from doing so.