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Like eating 1000 grim, bellyache-free pixy stix - 93%

iamntbatman, June 10th, 2015

I'm really not at all shocked that Ardraos, the solitary soul behind the genius that is Sühnopfer, was selected as the most recent drummer in the ever-changing rhythm section lineup of Peste Noire. The guy is clearly a ludicrously talented musician and a creative force to be reckoned with, his own project being, for me, a hell of a lot more interesting than pretty much everything else in the entire contemporary French black metal scene.

Fans of the band's previous full-length will likely find even more to love about this sophomore effort, while newcomers will probably be left with their mouths agape wondering where Sühnopfer have been all their lives. The music is essentially hyper-melodic, frenetic black metal that moves at tachyon speeds at the very least. Every single last thing about this album is fast. The razor sharp, super precise tremolo picking goes a billion miles per hour, melodies themselves flowing like an ever-changing stream of juicy black goodness. The drums never fail to keep pace, careening wildly between hyperactive blasts, pummeling double bass and vicious thrash beats, rarely playing any of these things for more than a couple of bars before bashing out some roll or fill and abusing the drum kit in other different but equally rapid and satisfying ways. The bass follows suit, typically matching the pace of the drums and guitars while noodling its way under and through everything. It's very clear in the mix but never at all showy but instead just becoming yet another element in the furious chaos.

Chaos isn't really the right word and it's probably a dangerous one to use when describing a post-millennial French black metal band. There are no ugly chords here, as far as I can tell no progressive songwriting or goofy polyrhythms or time changes. The music never lets up, shifting from one raised-fist twin guitar tremolo melody to the next without ever stopping to take a breath. Individual guitar lines are so involved and change so frequently that it's an exercise in futility to try to nail down if parts are even repeated at all or if every song is merely a riff slideshow, yet somehow Sühnopfer totally avoid the obnoxiousness of that sort of cohesion-lacking riff salad approach to songwriting by just being incessantly catchy and fun to listen literally all of the time.

There's also just tons of care put into the songwriting itself. Drums and guitars always hurtle merrily into the nearest star, hand-in-hand, never at odds with one another. More coherent, quantifiable riffs worm their way into your ears at all the right moments, just when songs call for a brief injection of relative normalcy in what's otherwise sort of an ADHD, manic songwriting style. There are also other touches thrown in for good measure, like acoustic guitars to add yet more melodic/harmonic layers or for wonderful folky stuff like the interlude track "Majestueux repaire" and even some ripping thrashy bits, like in "Les légendes de l'ours."

It's really pretty difficult to write about this album without coming across like I'm knocking it in all kinds of ways. Yes, it's hyper and manic, but neither of those things is a bad thing when the quality of riffs and the folky, somewhat sugary melodies is so damn consistently high. The sheer brutality of the speed, the raw iciness of the production and the savagery of Ardraos' throat-shredding vocal performance (another highlight, that) prevents this from ever sounding cloying. The endless flowing of riffs also never really bothers me here, even though so many other bands offend in this exact same way, because not only is nearly every riff a great one, but they morph into one another with with such an organic, natural logic that there are absolutely zero jarring shifts in direction. I'm never annoyed that a good riff didn't get repeated a couple more times (or even just more than the one time) because every riff just makes total sense following whichever one came before it.

It's sort of impossible for me to listen to this band without developing a big damn grin on my face. Those who like a healthy dose of melody in their black metal are bound to be captivated by Offertoire. It might be a bit much for folks who tend to prefer things a bit more dreary and atonal, but it's just so blazing fast and intense that even the most necro of no fun arms-always-crossed types could probably warm up to it. It's something of a tiring listen since it's nearly 50 minutes of unrelenting high speed black metal, but there are still so many dynamics in the songwriting and album sequencing that it's far from being a chore to finish, especially since the epic album closer "Messe des Morts" (which is French for "a whole mess of dead people," I'm fairly certain) constructs grandiose cathedrals of different movements throughout its ten-and-a-half-minute duration. The only real reason I can't rate Offertoire higher is that it's missing that certain....je ne sais what that I feel is necessary to provide the emotional/personal resonance required to push a score to the mid/upper 90's. It very well could have that for you, though. Not to be missed.