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Sühnopfer > Laments > Reviews > Sean16
Sühnopfer - Laments

There's Mist over the Castle (Prelude) - 75%

Sean16, May 23rd, 2009

Auvergne has the reputation of being the most forgotten region of France, so it may be no wonder there’s some good, pleasantly unfriendly black metal to be found here. Aorlhac. Sühnopfer. Two bands which aren’t without similarities with their melodic, atmospheric approach of the genre. But while in Aorlhac the purposely “medieval” approach may appear somehow too much gimmicky, Sühnopfer doesn’t care for gimmicks. Sühnopfer just doesn’t care for you to begin with. Because even if, unlike on the following L’Aube des Trépassés EP there doesn’t seem to be any mention of piercing everyone with crossbows bolts on this release, the mood isn’t exactly what I’d describe as a friendly all-cheerful hippie fest either.

Let’s directly admit that, while on L’Aube des Trépassés the production is near to perfect with its atmosphere of unquiet mystery, on the other hand it’s a bit the weak point of this demo. As, if all the instruments can be heard and the voice stands out of the pool perfectly, everything has a raspy, cracking tone which becomes annoyingly ear-drilling after a while. The highest end of the vocals happens to be pretty headache-inducing, and as Mr Ardraos wants to make honour to the genre by abundantly shrieking and torturing his vocal cords, the result may sound rather unpleasant. This remarks aside, the whole recording is of very solid quality once again proving Sühnopfer, as unknown as it may remain yet, definitely deserves more recognition amongst an otherwise overcrowded genre, especially in my beautiful home country.

As an highly atmospheric record, there is no really stand-out track, but more of a continuum of sinuous, disturbing melodies from remote times (there’s an undeniable medieval influence in the middle part of Dust of Passion for instance) topped by wicked, almost pathological high-pitched vocals. Sühnopfer may play highly melodic, atmospheric black metal, still one would be in pain hearing here a single second of those overdone ambient keyboards, pseudofolk interludes or so-tired naturalistic samples known as either the mighty icy wind blows through the deep dark forest, the ravens croak above the desolated moor, or the mighty ocean is crashing on the shore while we’re proudly waving our swords. Metal, and metal only! The guitar wails and the listener shivers.

Granted, it could be objected the band (or the guy, he’s alone by the way, given how much he seems to love people it’s hardly surprising) plays on this card a bit too easily. Dust of Passion and Forest of Ice may be excellent songs, they nonetheless look like two parts of the SAME song, with very similar melodies and accompaniment. Farther, while the title track probably features the most upbeat and aggressive parts of the whole release, the core still isn’t fundamentally different, and this latter comment would apply to the remaining tracks as well. But who cares. If the songs don’t have many distinctive signs, the whole release is all but linear. Inside of every track the tempo usually varies a lot, from pure frantic black metal to tamer moments probably intended for Ardraos to find his breath again, and even some rare acoustic breaks.

I’d already praised Ardraos’s musicianship in my L’Aube des Trépassés review, and this very demo just deserves as much praise. The vocals aren’t the most impressive, but the production really doesn’t help. The drumming is just as inventive as insane, and it’s a pity drums are a tad too muffled down, even if one doesn’t have to turn the volume up to the max to appreciate them. Rumours are a first full-length should soon be released. If it happens to be on the same quality level as the demos, Sühnopfer is a name we’ll just have to reckon with.

Highlights: Dust of Passion, Forest of Ice