NEIGE ET NOIRCEUR
'Hymnes de la Montaigne Noire'
Neige et Noirceur are yet another one of the many impressive bands currently plying their trade in the burgeoning Quebecois black metal scene, and finally get around to unleashing their latest opus entitled 'Hymnes de la Montagne Noire', and if you thought their previous efforts were cold then this will freeze you to your very core. So Zifond is back, and appears to have slightly shifted to focus this time around to a slightly heavier weighting on the metal aspect of their brand of black metal and less on the droning ambience yet still retaining a huge atmospheric presence that helps deliver his style of minimalist, hypnotic black metal so seamlessly. Indeed if there was a more suitable album this year to listen to just as winter threatens its first ice laden advances on the landscape then I’ve yet to hear it.
'Hymnes...' contains five tracks of repetitive, atavistic black metal set somewhere in between the Norwegian style of the early nineties and the deathly cold standoffishness of ambience focused acts like Paysage d’Hiver and Darkspace. Take the first track “Hymne I”, the Norwegian influences are hugely apparent with its raw swaggering gait reminiscent of early Gorgoroth, but break this up with subtle use of synths and Zifond’s abrasive vocals and sparse minimalist passages of ambience and and you have the basic formula for the whole album. The riffing itself uses repetition to great effect and bolstered by the incessant drumming hammers through the effect of a perpetual blizzard grinding away at your very being. Indeed ‘Snow and Blackness’ as their moniker translates couldn’t really be more fitting.
Zifond’s vocals alternate between are more atypical black metal rasp and extremely sharp high pitched shriek, I suppose you could say in the same vein as many artists from the ‘Suicidal Black Metal’ end of things. “Hymne II” is much the same expect broken up by vast swathes of atmosphere with some rather obscure guitar passages and kicks back in with some impressive lead work before closing out with an imposing, caustic dirge which again showcases the hypnotic use of the riff work. “Hymne III” even finds some space to utilize some nifty acoustic work which helps emphasize the change ups between ‘atmosphere’ and ‘metal’ and together with its sorrow laden riffing and synth make sure by this point if you’re not set to deep freeze you’re certainly on your way there.
“Hymne IV” is the best track here, a beautiful windswept acoustic introduction which eventually succumbs to a maelstrom of simple yet effective fuzzed out guitar driven majesty. By the time we reach the fifth track there’s not really much more to say I haven’t already (disregarding the rather unremarkable cover tacked on at the end), the only fault being the paper thin production. Simply put, 'Hymnes de la Montagne Noire' is a brilliant release for anyone who considers themselves a fan of atmospheric black metal. It’s complex and hypnotic arrangements are colder than a polar bears ballsack, and although you’ve heard it all before, hearing it again done this well is ever so welcome. [8,5]