Aorlhac – L’esprit des vents

The French black metal scene of late seems to have been  divided into two main factions – the already very familiar dissonant style fronted by bands like Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, and my recently discovered atmospheric style of bands like The Great Old OnesAorlhac‘s musical style leans more towards those of the latter with their third full length album, L’esprit des vents, their first post-reunion release.

One is thrown into a cold atmosphere from the get go with Aldérica, as the band throws out rather bleak riffs that immediately remind one of the works of bands such as Drudkh, with the emotional sensabilities of their compatriots The Great Old Ones. Melody is one of the key elements of the works of Aorlhac, and one often finds himself mesmerised by the more melodic moments on the album, as the lead guitars of Lonn features pretty prominently throughout. For instance, that almost folkish tune at the opening of La révolte des tuchins reminds one of the works of Wintersun and their themes of the freezing winter – bringing together the contrasting emotions of desolation and beauty.

Folk metal also seems to be a huge influence on the band’s music – from the riffs unleashed by Lonn and NKS, to the vocal patterns. The choral vocals on Infâme Saurimonde give the track that heroic feel that one often gets from folk metal releases, and the arrangement of the track even reminds one of the faster-paced material of bands like Moonsorrow.

At the same time there is that urgency that is in their music, with the most part of the album seeing Aorlhac going at rather high octane speeds. The more aggressive moments present even brings to mind the Finnish black metal style of bands like Sargeist or Horna, with the utter coldness combined with the relentless speed, though Aorlhac on L’esprit des vents does has a sharper, more polished sound in its production.

While the dissonant, chaotic form of French black metal may be a more polarising style of the genre to get into, the material produced by bands like Aorlhac may be more accessible to those looking into exploring the more atmospheric, melodic side of the genre. L’esprit des vents may be a new release with a refreshed lineup, but the band has proven that they have come back stronger than before after a 7 year hiatus. 

Kosmogyr – Eviternity

Kosmogyr is an atmospheric black metal duo that features members from Prague and Shanghai, two countries with cultures that can’t be more different from each other. This leaves one to wonder what they might sound like on their debut full length release, Eviternity. Would the band sound more like the raw style of bands like China’s Skeletal Augury, or lean towards the occult of Czech Republic’s Cult of Fire?

Turns out to be neither, but this doesn’t discount the fact that Kosmogyr‘s Eviternity could still be a potentially, erm, potent release. Instead, Eviternity is a release that sees Kosmogyr indulging in heavy atmospherics, and one that the listener easily finds himself being lost in.

Opener Sui Generis brings about some folk metal leanings, but as soon as the band kicks into high gear with The Wane, the bleakness that the band brings forth with their music quickly reminds one of the works of legends such as DrudkhWinterfylleth, or even Wodensthrone. The trebly, furiously trem-picked riffs reek of freezing coldness, and is complemented by the desperate shrieks. This often leaves the listener with an overwhelming hopelessness, as Kosmogyr easily sucks all semblance of light out with their artform.

The more aggressive moments on the album even bear resemblance to recent releases of the Finnish scene. Tracks like Quiescent for example is not unlike the later works of bands like Sargeist or Behexen, taking a gruffer and more confrontational tone than what one would expect for the more atmospheric bands of the genre. Yet there is that intertwining of softer and acoustic moments that is so reminiscent of the works of UK’s Fen.

The ease with which Kosmogyr fuses the different elements from the various styles of black metal  into Eviternity is probably what sets them apart. The band basks in the negativity that each of the sub-genres provide, resulting in an album that is at once beautiful, yet violent and destructive as hell.

Monolithe – Nebula Septem

I was never a fan of funeral doom metal, often finding the genre a little bit too slow, and a little bit too heavy for my liking. Bands like Bell Witch and the likes were raved about both by friends and online media, yet they hardly managed to retain my attention. On the other hand, Monolithe stood to be the exception to this rule, having already encountered their brand of doom metal over the last few years.

The one thing that I always remembered about Monolithe was how their releases tended to be structured as 3 15-minute tracks, though the music of course played a huge role in retaining my memory of the band. Nebula Septem takes a slightly different structure in terms of arrangement, and the band on their seventh releases has put in 7 tracks, each 7-minute long into this album, featuring 7 members, yada yada. You get the idea. Pretty consistent in their marketing thus far, but would the quality of their music remain consistent?

The mid-paced riff of Sylvain and Benoit that greets one on Anechoic Aberration threw me a little off guard, being already used to the pace that other Monolithe tracks have taken form thus far. Yet it is rather refreshing to hear this, as the band manages to retain that groovy touch that featured so strongly in their material.  The riffs are heavy as hell, but are often pierced through by depressing, or melancholic-sounding lead guitars that seem to be a constant theme on Nebula Septem. Probably the only comparison that I can draw would be to the emotional death/doom of bands like Draconian, especially with Sebastien’s hate-drenched vocals. Monolithe also doesn’t shy away from the gratuitous incorporation of synths of Sebastien, which alternate between adding a beautiful ambient, or drenching the music with a gloomy, haunting atmosphere.

With a larger number of tracks now as well, the band has the capacity to really explore different styles with their songwriting. While the foundation of the band remains doomy and gloomy, there is certainly an increased variety of elements that the band has added into their repertoire. Engineering the Rip for instance is injected with some psychedelic elements with the keyboards of Sebastien, and the riffs that the band has written even gives off some Finnish death metal vibe a la Demilich or Adramelech.

To top off, the production is heavy as fuck. Throughout the album one is enveloped by the wall of sound that is created by the band, with the mix of each of the different instruments in a perfect balance – be it the relentless riffs of the guitars, or that air of mystery created by the synths.

I really have no idea what makes Monolithe a band that is so entrancing, yet with every listen new discoveries are made, making each new listen an entirely different experience. If there is one heavy record to start your journey into darker doom metal, Nebula Septem should definitely make it to your consideration list.

COEN – Remnants of Yesterday

When drummer Brandon told me about his new side project, I got rather excited, having already heard his drumming prowess previously not only in his studio works, but also through his live performances with Shirlyn & the Unexpected. So here we are with the debut album of Singaporean progressive metal band CoenRemnants of Yesterday, a year-long songwriting and recording effort of some of the finest musicians from our Little Red Dot.

Melody seems to be a extremely key feature of Coen‘s music, as the band easily infuses elements of technicality into their brand of progressive metal. The band claims Dream Theater to be one of their main influences, and this is clear from the start with Island in the Sky. It is hard to say whether the music is complex or simple, as the band often indulges in odd time signatures, yet the music remains catchy as hell, with one finding himself bobbing his head to the music. Brandon executes his lines with much ease, and channels the inner Mike Portnoy into his creation. Even the backing vocals on The Craven reminds one of those of Portnoy’s on his works with Dream Theater.

The guitars of Rudy here are somewhat less technical than those of John Petrucci (in no way discounting his playing), though this is for the better good as it fits the musical style of Coen like a glove, compared to a more robotic style. Songs like Perpetual: Remnants of Yesterday shows us the other influences as well, with some of the opening riffs being reminiscent of Joe Satriani‘s Rubina.

While each of the instruments are on point, the main concern for most discerning listeners would be the vocals, but vocalist Derrick hits each of the notes with ease, and has a rather soothing quality to his voice, making it fitting especially for slower or more emotional tracks. Further reinforcing the Dream Theater comparisons, the band even got the stamp of approval via the appearance of Jordan Rudess himself on the title track, which also happens to contain some of my favourite bass sections of Kelvin and guitar solos on the album.

Songwriting-wise the band ensures that the listener is kept engaged, with a variety of styles and emotions on the album. There is that somewhat aggressive Freedom, to the emotional ballad Goodbye. Yet all the while the band maintains their sharp technicality, never once slipping up.

But as with all records, not everything here is perfect. For instance the sudden inclusion of the child’s spoken part of Goodbye felt a little bit jarring and out of place, with the sudden switching from a pretty neutral accent in the singing to one that leans closer to a Singaporean one on the spoken parts. That said, it does expose the air of innocence meant to be on the track. Production-wise, the guitars could be mixed slightly higher, as they sound rather veiled compared to the rest of the band at times. And this is obvious from the start as the guitars made a rather unimpressive entrance due to it’s low presence in the mix.

Coen has broken new ground (at least locally) with their debut, with the excellent musicianship and songwriting prowess evident on Remnants of Yesterday. So if you’re a fan of melodic progressive metal or Images and Words-era Dream Theater, be sure to not miss this album.

Load more