Saturday, February 20, 2010


Part of the outstanding Quebec black metal underground (probably comparable only to France proper in terms of quality bands and releases) Neige et Noirceur are one of the forerunners of the extremely niche genre known as "ambient black metal." Only a handful of entities are working within this confine, and from what i've heard much of the standard BM community feels distanced from and outright hostile towards this genre. I've no idea why, as these are easily some of the most extreme sounds currently ululating from the depths and display a marked creativity and depth when compared to other, more stagnant genre exercises. This double CD collects two early demos and is an excellent example of Neige et Noirceur's infant sound and the juggernaut of spaced black metal that they are now churning out. CD One is the newer material; why they sequenced it this way is a mystery. It is composed of two epic tracks spanning 42 minutes and runs a gamut of sound. Things open with about 8 minutes of haunting windblown frigid ambience, as if sole member Spiritus brought a tape record out into the Canadian night and just let it run. Similar in sound to the winterscapes of Dapnom, but with a greater emphasis on nature and paganism (i.e. the sounds of rain, waterfalls, howling wolves, etc.) Some classically tinged baroque harpsichord enters next, steeped in echo. I found this section of the piece to be the most intriguing as it displays an enormous amount of instrumental talent but also has an almost comical feel to its renaissance wandering; it's like Spiritus is daring you to take this seriously, and if you do, then you're complicit in it. Afterwards the black metal swarms in and it is wholly furious and unrelenting. It sounds very far away and cold and is more or less a constant blastbeat with some seriously icy guitars roaring away underneath. Vocals are processed way beyond comprehension, becoming a pillar of white noise crumbling away behind everything. It is intensely cosmic and overwhelming, a hypnotic endurance ritual engineered for maximum headfucking. Track two delivers more of the same but in a shorter runtime, or maybe track one is just so overpowering that i don't rightly recollect what track two is all about.
CD Two suggest an obvious difference in both sound and aesthetic. Comprised of six tracks running a mere 24 minutes, this is much more raw and traditional black metal fare. While no less intense, the epic feel is scaled back quite a bit and i found myself missing all those elitist keyboards and synth flourishes (they're here, too, just used much more sparingly, more as interludes rather than parts of the compositions.) The recording here is very lo-fi and everything totally SCREAMS, ultra-loud and distorted and totally in the red, like Boris doing black metal. It's more an assault than anything else; the auditory violence found within is very impressive. It's over all too quickly but the experience is draining in the best possible way.
The allegiances and influences here are obvious. Burzum is referenced in both the reverence of nature and the massive, meditative, enthralling song structures; Immortal and Emperor are both homaged via the neoclassicism of the keyboards/synth and the overall complexity of the arrangements. The easiest comparison is to the mighty Paysage D'Hiver, and, to a lesser extent, the cosmic nihilism of Darkspace. This is a dark frontier of black metal- i was so impressed by this record that i acquired several other Neige et Noirceur albums (i hope to review them shortly.) I must also say that the artwork on this album is beautiful and does much to convey the ideals and aesthetics that this project is striving for. An essential release.

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