The broad genre of doom metal bears that name for a reason. In different ways, the sub-genres under that banner summon sensations of dread, despair, gloom, and grief, sometimes of supernatural origin and often deriving from the familiar afflictions of daily human existence and the ultimate one that awaits us all at the end. But while the genre label of doom may have the naming rights for all our woes, it has no monopoly on the channeling of those feelings through extreme music.
Certain schools of atmospheric black metal are equally devoted to soul-crushing sensations, and arguably are even better suited to capturing the severity of intense suffering and the madness it can produce. The self-titled debut album by Iffernet that we’re premiering today in advance of its October 2nd release is a prime example. It presents emotionally wrenching music that penetrates deeply, relying on continuing cycles of squalling and searing riffs and severely tortured vocals to saturate the mind with changing moods of abandonment, fear, pain, delirious agony, and crushing grief. The album is a colossal panorama of despondency and despair that’s unrelenting in the intensity of its devotion to those visions, and so powerful in its achievements that it won’t leave most listeners unaffected.
Iffernet is a French duo whose members are part of the La Harelle collective, which also includes Mòr, Sordide, Telümehtår, The True Malemort, and Void Paradigm, most of whom we’ve previously written about at this site. Beyond that, we know very little about them, other than the spine-tingling potency of their musical creations, as represented in this album.
The six songs here include variations in tempo and drum rhythms, along with changes in the riffing styles and trade-offs between the two vocalists, both of whom sound like they’re being skinned alive by the knives of their own emotional affliction. The only breaks are brief moments of quiet at the beginning or end of the tracks, which sound like the crackling of a wood fire, and a longer recording of hard-to-define sounds at the end. But while such variations exist within the tracks, the songcraft depends on the repetition of melodic motifs, which have the effect of drawing the listener deeply into the internal worlds of these performers, which aren’t alien, but are sadly familiar to all of us.
Iffernet set the blueprint for the album immediately (a blueprint you can read in the song titles, as well as hear in the music). “The Tales Of Things To Sink” begins the experience with gloomy, distorted, reverberating chords that lead into a pummeling drum and cymbal fusillade. The melody seems to slowly writhe but grows increasingly feverish, a manifestation of building tension, pain, and anguish. When the first voice comes in, it’s just as tortured — the sound of harsh, protracted shrieks that themselves reverberate with agony. The riffing washes over the hammering drum propulsion like waves of unnerving grief and continues its relentless yet mesmerizing cycle of misery even after the drumming abates into a slow pounding near the end.
Given Ifferenet’s reliance on the repetition of emotionally abrading melodic patterns in the (abrasive) riffing, and on unrelenting extremity in the vocal shrieks and screams, the quality of those melodic riffs becomes vital to the music’s success, and fortunately the quality is high. They become memorable as well as creating intense emotional resonance. But the variations in tempo and rhythm become important, too.
And so “Black Flood” creates a contrast with the preceding track by opening with a slow, stately, lurching rhythm, which provides the foundation for another rapidly vibrating, grief-stricken tremolo’d riff that generates a melody which moves slowly, and again hits that terrible place where wretchedness pushes a stricken person over the line between sanity and madness. Certainly, the vocals remain completely unhinged, and here too the drumming abates — actually falls silent, allowing the reverberation of slowly strummed chords to ring like mutated funeral bells, creating a searing diversion before the march into a pit of despair resumes.
Different dark moods surface in “The Knife and The Rope”. Rampant drum blasting alternates with a cantering pace, accompanied by riffing that itself alternates between the sounds of magisterial fury and cold cruelty. The mood is still cloaked in gloom, but the feeling here is one of immense peril and fear, again propelled into the red zone of desperation by the shattering extremity of the vocals.
While one might expect oppressive heaviness from a song called “Crushing Void”, it instead begins with a hammering, mid-paced drum pulse, surrounded by a dense, spinning vortex of flickering and moaning fretwork that again captures a range of dolorous sensations, rising like grasping hands yearning for succor, and falling when none is to be found.
Another slow drum rhythm marks the cadence of a dirge-like march in “Unconquered Suns”, the guitarist mixing tremolo vibrations with less frenzied picking and strumming, but regardless of those fretwork changes the emotional effect of the melodies is still calculated to immerse the listener in a dismal world. The drums do eventually begin to race with abandon as the vocals reach a fever pitch of harrowing lunacy and the riffing becomes more violent, as if under the pressure of intense torment.
In its name, “Far Quest For A Dead End” seems to sum up the journey of the album as a whole. Deep riffs boil over another stalking, lurching drum patterm, creating a feeling of sadistic cruelty — and they swirl up the range in a manifestation of affliction beyond cure.
As mentioned at the outset, Iffernet’s devotion to their musical concept is uncompromising. You enter their imposingly bleak world at the beginning, and they close and lock the gate behind you, opening it again only at the end, after having made it very difficult to find your way out. Yet although that world is where hope goes to die, the music is so compelling that it’s well worth dwelling there for these 41 minutes.
You’ll find the album stream below via Bandcamp. It will be released on CD on October 2nd by WV Sorceror Productions, and on tape at a later date by Breathe Plastic Records and La Harelle, and ordering info will become available through the links just below. And below the album stream you’ll find the schedule for Iffernet’s tour of France, Switzerland and Italy in October, where they’ll be accompanying Aerial Ruin from Portland, Oregon.
IFFERNET – AERIAL RUIN TOUR:
01/10 @ Taverne Saint-Armand, ROUEN, FR (Aerial Ruin only)
02/10 @ Canadian Café, TOURS, FR
03/10 @ Raymond Bar, CLERMONT-FERRAND, FR
04/10 @ L’intermédiaire, MARSEILLE, FR
05/10 @ La Villa Cool, TOULON, FR
06/10 @ L’Althérax, NICE, FR
07/10 @ Chez Moi, PIACENZA, IT (Aerial Ruin only)
08/10 @ Hirscheneck, BASEL, CH
09/10 @ Kuzeb, BREMGARTEN, CH
10/10 @ Urgence Disk, GENÈVE, CH
12/10 @ Brasserie Ouroboros, FREYCENET-LA-TOUR, FR
13/10 @ Lieu Secret, NEVERS, FR
17/10 @ Le Trois Pièces, ROUEN, FR (Iffernet only)