Let's kick off a new month with something unusual. Even though everything here seems to be French, from the very name of the band to the lyrics to all of the songs, Le Chant Noir are actually a Brazilian outfit hailing from Rio de Janeiro. They're fairly listed as avant-garde black metal, making the intro a notably appropriate affair, with its backward masking over a flavourful carnival organ and accordion. The outro and the final track proper, Eloa, le bel ange, play overtly in this vein too, and it's never quite absent at any point. However, the first song, Le vampire, kicks off with power chords so reminiscent of the Who that I found myself imagining the opening credits to another CSI spin-off show.
This is a really interesting song. Sure, those are are black metal vocals that entice and beckon like an orc carnival barker and we respond. There are some wall of sound moments but mostly the drums are the other black metal component, if we skip past the Satanic lyrical content for a moment, but they're typical black metal drums. When they're fast, they're very fast, but the production has the odd effect of making them sound like the drummer is galloping far beyond his capabilities but very consistently. It's an odd feeling! And they're rarely echoed by any other instrument so, when the drums slow down, we're back with heavy metal power chords, speed drifting slowly away in the rear view mirror. That's what happens at the end of Le vampire, which is effectively just drums and voice, one that seems very female to me.
I'm hearing two voices here, though I'm only seeing a gentleman named Lord Kaiaphas credited. One feels male and very influenced by Dani Filth in its theatrical approach, so that's likely His Lordship. It becomes very deep on Nuit de l'enfer, though it mostly sits in the standard black metal shriek range. However, the other voice seems female to me and it shows up a lot, often taking the lead. Is this some sort of admirable versatility or is there a guest here that I don't know about, perhaps even a second lead singer, one just as influenced by Edith Piaf as Dani Filth?
Sadly I'm not seeing a lot of information about the band. It was founded in 2016 by Lord Kaiaphas and a couple of others Malphas and Mantus. The suggestion is that Kaiaphas provides the vocals, Mantus handles lead guitar and bass, while Malphas does everything else: rhythm guitar, keyboards, drums and a varied set of percussion instruments including vibraphone and marimba.
All of them have other bands too. As DJ Zhyin, Kaiphas mostly performs psygressive trance as Minimal Criminal, though he's also in a black metal outfit called Thokkian Vortex that evolved from just him to a full band. Mantus belongs to what looks like every other black metal band in Brazil, playing an array of instruments under an array of names; the most prolific bands are Mysteriis and Patria. Malphas is also in Mysteriis, as their drummer, and he's in a few others too, drifting into death and power metal. So they're all experienced and ready to create something new and different within their collective genre of choice.
There are heavier songs here that come closer to traditional fast black metal, like Nuit de l'enfer and Le baron sanglant, but they're more interesting when they're mixing it up, as they do often. There's a gothic edge here that comes into play in slower sections and in the interlude called Marche infernale. Often there's an echoey piano or distant guitar that combines with the theatrical approach to create a lush environment that far outstrips the actual depth of instrumentation. This isn't layered densely but it achieves some of what Cradle of Filth do anyway, just in a more stripped down form.
I really like Les métamorphoses du vampire, because it starts out gothic, goes full blown black metal and never quite loses that gothic edge, the piano maintaining its stubbornly slow presence, even with the song shifting into hyperspeed. We lose it on occasion but it's always there. That female voice has a spoken return here, almost as an interlude within the song itself, and the drums are fascinating on this one, again sounding very different to what we expect, but in a really good way. La danse macabre does many of the same things, without spending as much time at full speed.
I listened to this more than I should have done today, but I keep finding more in it each time I listen to either a particular song or the complete album. I liked it from the outset, but I like it more now than I did that first time through. Now, to a rabbit hole that these musicians suggest I should dive into, with Mysteriis surely the first band on that list after the debut Le Chant Noir album, Ars Arcanvm Vodvm. I like when black metal bands do something different and this band definitely do that, though perhaps not as much as I'd have liked, given how delightful the accordion is when they haul it out. How about a dedicated orcish carnival metal album built around the sound in Eloa, le bel ange?