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Seth > Les blessures de l'âme > Reviews > Liutprand
Seth - Les blessures de l'âme

Cornerstone of French black metal - 96%

Liutprand, May 13th, 2022

In May 1998, I was young and I discovered in the specialized press the titles "Hymne au vampire : Acte II" and "À la mémoire de nos frères", and it was an immediate crush that pushed me to take a closer interest in a French black metal scene that was only in its infancy. Because it must be said, if France has always been behind in metal compared to the other great world scenes, in 1998 it is even a big desert that looks very sad next to the Scandinavian abundance that invades our turntables. Of course, a lot of the bands that were going to be known at the beginning of the 2000's already existed, and the Black Legions were having fun doing their own thing since the beginning of the 90's, but almost no French black metal album had been noticed until then, with the notable exception of the first two Blut Aus Nord, a pioneer band with a significant influence on the rest of France. Even if you include the first album of Lord - a band we don't remember much anymore - released a few months before Les blessures de l'âme, I don't think that more than ten real French black metal albums have been released before, this first try of Seth acting as a forerunner of the French black metal. And whoever answers Exile by Anorexia Nervosa has lost. Originally from the south of France, where he will weave links with Season Of Mist, Heimoth joins Bordeaux and forms Seth with Asvild a little before the Toulon inhabitants make the headlines (in the South of France) by feeding their canine companions with old people's bones. The band releases its first album after a demo and an EP that will make them known in the scene, at a time when black metal starts to scare the housewife; and does it especially on the young but nevertheless active label Season Of Mist, whose promotion will be very effective.

If the news of the label from Marseille was particularly busy with albums from Bethzaida, Anata and ...And Oceans all released at the same period, it was nevertheless difficult to miss Seth, whose worked visuals marked the readers of the time. However, there is no doubt that the Bordeaux-based band would have fallen into oblivion despite their aesthetic effort and the omnipresent esotericism in their texts and visuals if the musical quality had not been there. Besides the vampire theme - designed in an adult way, you'll have a hard time making your little sister believe that this is a Twilight concept album - Les blessures de l'âme will mark by its captivating atmosphere, halfway between wonder and suffocation, carried by a rich black metal, quite complex even in regard of the canons of the time, which is clearly close to the Swedish school, with some hints of Immortal and Satyricon. With a mostly medium/fast tempo, Seth's style remains quite classical, with a few touches of keyboard, as was the fashion at the time, to counterbalance the harshness of the guitars with their sustained tremolo and to support the de rigueur harmonizations, and thus create an almost permanent melodic intensity. However, Seth stands out from the competition thanks to the frequent incursions of a superb acoustic guitar which wonderfully contrasts with the speed peaks they invariably call for, where the talent of the Bordeaux band is fully expressed, notably thanks to the remarkable performance of Asvild, a recognized drummer who now officiates for Ad Patres. One will marvel at the subtleties of his playing on the end of "Hymne au vampire : Acte I" and his frenzy on the acceleration of the second minute of "Acte II", which literally transcend these two classics of French black metal. The excellent guitar riffs of Heimoth, the so particular voice of Vicomte Arkames which gave a particular stamp to the atmosphere of this first album, and thus the play of Asvild will have all participated to make Les blessures de l'âme one of the cult albums of the history of French black metal.

In spite of the nostalgic aura and the cult status that honors it, this first try of Seth is however not free of flaws, which are especially the lack of variety and the absence of madness of the second half of the album. Except for "... À la mémoire de nos frères" which is amazing with its black/thrash intro and its riff which closes the album wonderfully, the tracks "Le cercle de la renaissance", "Les silences d'outre-tombe" and especially the instrumental "Dans les yeux du serpent" suffer from the comparison with the three strokes of genius which open the album, the two "Hymne au vampire", which have an unstoppable theme, in particular. Without harming the whole, these three tracks are a bit weaker, but they are more symphonic black, more calm and play much less on the rise in intensity that characterizes the admirable "Acte II". If, in my eyes of eternal nostalgia, this track remains one of the best in the history of black metal as a whole, I can't help but think that it would have been even better without this too clean keyboard on its finale. Although one can clearly feel that this album was written without worrying too much about fashion and with an undeniable authenticity, the influence of symphonic black doesn't really fit the atmosphere of some moments, so that in the end one remembers mainly the passages without keyboards which are probably the most memorable, such as the chorus of "La quintessence du mal" or the main melody of the two acts of "Hymne au vampire". But it's a very personal feeling.

The production is a bit messed up from a technical point of view, it serves especially the guitars and the bass, with an extremely dry sound, without sparing a slamming and lacking in spacing drums, taking care to wrap the whole in a doubtful management of volumes that puts the voice and the snare drum noticeably too much in front. If I can't help but think that the original production contributed to the atmosphere of the album, we have to admit that the remastered version by Stéphane Buriez made for the 2012 reissue, still on Season Of Mist, has somewhat put things back in place. Offering a better spatialization, a much better bass - so much so that we can now distinguish very clearly the bass at the beginning of "Le cercle de la renaissance" - and offering a global rebalancing of good taste, which pays tribute to the work of the musicians without distorting the atmosphere that makes all the interest of this album. This remaster, justified, will have my favor on the original version.

First French black metal album to be released on an important label - France having at the time more recognized labels than recognized bands - Les blessures de l'âme was a very good standard meter for the French scene, which will only partially follow it, Seth remaining one of the rare bands to propose a melodic black music of quality, the great majority of the scene which was going to explode two or three years later being more borrowed from classicism, and freeing itself from the codes of symphonic black metal. In spite of young musicians and some mistakes of taste, this first album transpires passion and authenticity and will mark a whole generation by the quality of its riffing, its hargne and its atmosphere. Seth corresponded to his time with a melodic black, full of arpeggios, keyboards and blasts, but his turn towards a more avant-garde black metal, sometimes tinged with electro, will be against the general movement of the scene, which will privilege the return to a more primary music. If the three following albums never had the impact of Les blessures de l'âme and somewhat precipitated Seth into oblivion among the younger generations, his beloving among the older fringe of the public remains strong, thanks mainly to the authenticity and the great quality of this first album. Go and discover this jewel in its remastered version if you missed it at the time, but especially if these bygone times remained unknown to you, and where black metal was full of originality and ideas.