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Droning black ambient soundscapes are too monotonous - 60%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, April 4th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

A blackened ambient drone doom metal one-man band from Lyons in France? This sounded very tempting to me. I was quite prepared to hand over my ears and the space between them to 43 minutes of "Autre temps" from Sombre Présage, which formed in 2005 and was very active up to 2010, after which time the band went quiet for eight years. "Autre temps" is the act's second album (after the 2018 release "Le Chant des Morts") in its current incarnation. As far as I can tell, Sombre Présage's music is completely instrumental, structured around extended droning riffs surrounded by other tones and effects for mood and atmosphere.

The album starts strongly with deep booming drone bass tones and tortured guitar feedback stretched out on a rack on the title track. Black solitude and a remote forbidding attitude, warning curious adventurers to stay away from the sound depths within, dominate the music. Listeners can imagine themselves floating through deep alien space far, far distant from the familiarity of the Milky Way galaxy. This impression is reinforced by the even more remote follow-up frack "Aveugles" ("Blinded Ones") which seems to be coming from another mysterious and even darker dimension altogether. Repeating tone echoes seem very fragmented, the spaces in the track are thick with shadows and even the volume seems distant no matter how high you turn it up.

The music becomes even more vague and shadowy ambient on "Perdus" ("Lost Ones") and the atmosphere is very still and frosty. Guitars have disappeared altogether and frost-cold wintry tone dominates along with background noise effects that bring tension to the track. This holds steady for the bulk of the track and I have to say this will sorely test listeners' patience as not much happens for the duration of this track. The last couple of tracks are a little more interesting with ringing, echoing drone loops that appear industrial ("Oubliés") or noisy, grinding and rumbling like a concrete mixer ("Qui nous sommes") but which ultimately don't seem to be any great advance on earlier tracks and leave listeners lost and hanging in a black void.

Depending so much on repeating drone riff loops with echo effects, the soundscape music ends up more monotonous and stuck in a rut rather than immersive. The five tracks aren't greatly different from one another and could have all been linked to give the impression of flow and purpose, and to keep listeners' attention riveted to slowly changing riffs. The music would not need to be as long as it is as the ambience would be much the same across all tracks. The distant, stand-off attitude of the title track turns into indifference across succeeding tracks. The range of sounds, textures and ambient effects is narrow, and with the drone loops create barren soundscapes that give the impression that they're not hiding anything at all, let alone anything that is mysterious and arouses curiosity no matter the risk of danger and fear presented to listeners.

Listening to this album really was an excruciating experience for me and I doubt most MA readers will have as much patience as I did to stick out the entire recording.