Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Release Date: 15 Mar 2019
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This is the first full album from Triste Terre, a French atmospheric black metal band from Lyon, and I haven't heard any of their previous EPs but, on the basis of this alone, I'm sold on their particular take on the genre.
In fact, Grand œuvre is precisely what I look for in black metal nowadays, a set of immersive songs that run long and complex. There are half a dozen on offer here and they range from nine minutes to well over twelve, so there's plenty of opportunity for two permanent band members and their guest drummer to create walls of engaging sound that are impermeable until we persevere to discover the delights within.
I really don't want to use the word "routine" but, on first listen, this is relatively typical of the genre, just done capably and enjoyably. The beat, courtesy of session drummer Lohengrin, is slow but the blastbeats behind it are often as fast as we'd expect. A gentleman by the name of Naâl provides most of the rest of the instrumentation, including the keyboards that help to create that dense background. He handles the vocals too.
I say "most" as there's another musician here, A. Varenne on contrabass, an interesting choice for a black metal album and that's the beginning of what starts to creep out of that 'routine' sound to highlight just how far from it this album is. Four minutes and change into Nobles luminaires, Varenne's contrabass gets playful. Suddenly we're listening to Satan's lounge band, a delightful bass run underneath the dissonant, clashing guitars and, before too long, the blastbeats.
There are certainly some surprises on offer here and a second run through highlights some of them nicely.
For instance, the opening track, Œuvre au noir, has quite a few of them. An old school church organ shows up here and there and makes itself at home in no time flat. Lohengrin does vary his drumming, with one particular military rhythm standing out for notice. And, if Naâl's vocals begin unremarkably, he does go high at points and that proves to be an elevation in more than just pitch.
In fact, when he does something different, he's a real highlight. On Corps glorieux, his voice gradually becomes more and more tortured until we have to wonder if he's performing from the stake with flames gradually creeping up to take him down. Early in Lueur émérite, he goes for a droning chant like a monk's. A few minutes later, he goes high again, with vibrato, like he's aiming for the nuns next door too. He's his own demonic choir when he wants to be.
As tends to be the case with more interesting black metal albums nowadays, I liked this on first listen but failed to catch much of what it's doing. It's a journey not a destination, so each return visit brings more and more into focus until, eventually, Grand œuvre may well become an old friend.
It's also a large enough friend to provide particular value. It could end after four tracks and still seem substantial at 42 minutes. Every accolade mentioned above would still apply. But wait, as they say, there's more! It isn't done, because there are two more ten minute plus tracks to bounce it over the hour mark.
This is definitely a candidate for three in the morning headphones, because interruptions are anathema to albums like this. Skip your virtual needle in half a song and see if it makes sense. It won't. This deserves for you to set an hour aside to immerse yourself into it like a virgin into a bath of blood. I can't say what my dreams will be like after such an immersion, not least because the final track, Tribut solennel, is as fast as the band get, but I'm willing to find out.