Style: Doom/Death Metal
Release Date: 20 Sep 2019
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Wanting something muddier and more dismal than commerical prog rock, I took a hard left turn into doom/death but wasn't impressed by anything I found. I found a bunch of albums that were much older than I thought and a bunch that just weren't any good. The first one to grab me like a meathook to the gut was this debut from a French Canadian band called Paladin, because they're way down there in the mire with a tone that refused to let me go.
It's really downtuned, to the degree that it's actually fun to play with the equalizer to see if we can actually make it any deeper through software. It could be described as the musical equivalent of getting stuck in a swamp but kind of enjoying the experience rather than climbing out. The lead vocalist, Louis, growls so low that there's almost a warmth to it. The band play along with him except for wild moments of vibrancy, like towards the end of Brûle when he lets out a tortured cry and a guitar solo erupts from it like some demon escaping its mortal prison.
This is an interesting sound because it's not what I tend to expect from the doom/death genre. Mostly Paladin feel like a death metal band to me (they cite Autopsy as a key influence and there's some early Possessed in here too) and they certainly play fast for doom/death but the doom is in the tone. Saint-Barthélémy feels like a death metal song, for example, until the guitar leaps out to layer a melancholy tone over it. Louis lets out another tortured cry in this song too and I adored it as much as I did in Brûle.
Paysans impies, on the other hand, develops in the opposite direction, with an early doom metal tempo that speeds up to finds a death metal vibe, though it refuses to stay fast and it mires down gloriously during the guitar solo. While I enjoyed the musicianship in the traditional sense of what notes were played and in what order, this worked for me more like a tactile experience. I had this on at work but I still found myself closing my eyes so as to feel the weight of the music in my hands.
The last album I remember feeling so tangible was by Beyond All Temples and Myths by a French gothic metal band, Winds of Sirius, and that was a couple of decades ago. It also hasn't been remembered well, except by me, and I do wonder if this will play out the same way. Will I be raving about Paladin in reviews of other bands in 2039 to the confused recollections of many who let it flow right past them as nothing special?
I don't think either of these bands are doing anything technical to warrant specific praise. They aren't the best musicians and they don't have the best production. However, they achieve something with their tone that affects me deep inside. Winds of Sirius employed much wider dynamics but the result is similar. It's all mood and texture and weight and feel.
I'd love to hear what others think of this. Passion mortifère runs too long and its solo is right out there on the edge, but it just feels exquisite to me. It might not to you. You might not hear anything special in the tortured cries that Louis occasionally comes back to (and there are more than one in Diablerie!) but they play perfectly to me. I'm not sure what emotion he has in mind for the audience to hear, but they're like a happy place for me.
The biggest problem I found with this album is that a few songs just ended on me. L'ordre suprême and Paysans impies come quickly to mind as examples. They both felt like they needed something extra to wrap them up and the band had no idea what that could be. Passion mortifère does the same thing, as if the band didn't know where to go next, so just kept on doing what they were doing until they weren't doing it any more.
While I have to stay with a 7/10 rating, this is likely to be one of my very favourite albums of 2019 for no better reason than I feel it. I adore those tortured cries, I adore the galloping drums in Purification du mal, I adore the wild, almost out of control solos. And I adore that I feel it as much as I hear it.