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Difficult to hear but a diamond in the rough - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, February 4th, 2015

Here's an early split recording for both Peste Noire and Sombre Chemin, each band opposite the other in the eternal rural-versus-urban divide with PN hailing from Avignon in southern France at the time of the recording and Sombre Chemin from Paris. The PN tracks come off his early demos "Aryan Supremacy" and "Macabre Transcendence". The release is very lo-fi in its production: the Sombre Chemin tracks in particular sound as if they had been recorded in a filthy metal foundry.

Those PN fans used to Famine's recent work will get a shock: apart from the choral opening and conclusion to "Gisant Dans La Putréfaction (Marche Apocalyptique)" and some solo organ playing on "Aryan Supremacy", the songs here are mostly very straightforward melodic BM pieces with angry crabby screeching vocals. Guitars are fairly minimal with an abrasive grinding texture and the drumming is matter-of-fact brisk. Rhythms are just as busy and have a jaunty, swanky bounce. Although the music is full of rage and aggression, and the last song especially erupts in fury at Christian repression with screaming voices, the energy and anger are channelled well and the songs keep their focus and intensity. There's little of the later hoonish theatricality that characterises later work and the impression is of an angry and powerful music with surging rhythms.

Sombre Chemin is very different in sound and approach: the band is no less angry or energetic but the music seems more straightforward in its approach. The musicians mix riffs, speed levels and rhythms throughout songs but the stop-start effect sometimes means the energy of the music is disrupted and it does not flow easily. The muddy production might be intended, I don't know, but this is one instance where a cleaner recording approach would have benefited the band: the murkiness softens the guitars and drumming too much and much of the band's sound is lost. There is a sharpness to the guitar tone that needs to be heard and the percussion sounds floppier than it really is. The musicians have good technical skills but listeners either need a good ear or maximum levels of volume close to distortion to hear everything because of the murkiness. Certainly SC has its atmospheric side and on a split recording like this, the band may have wished to emphasise a unity between the dark ambient music and the sharper melodic BM on its side. The singing and lyrics are very hard to make out as the vocals are set some way back in the mix and a reverb effect is cast over them as well. On one track there is a definite Burzum influence in the use of simple keyboard melodies which the rest of the music then follows to evoke a feeling of melancholy, maybe depression, and isolation.

In spite of its shortcomings, this split is well worth checking out if you're a fan of either one of the bands or you want an introduction into either Peste Noire or Sombre Chemin's work. This definitely can be said to be a diamond in the rough that needs some polishing up!