One thing leads to another, sometimes with terrible results, sometimes with great ones. Fortune has smiled upon us this time.
In mid-May our valued ally Speelie prepared for us an overview of recent and forthcoming black metal releases from Québec (Métal Noir Québécois), and the first band he highlighted was a solo project of Forteresse guitarist Moribond named Serment. A few days later Serment released the first two tracks from the debut album, Chante, Ô Flamme de la Liberté, and presented them together in a single stream. The music was so striking that we were moved to write about it immediately (here).
And now we have the opportunity to premiere a stream of the entire album, which is set for release on June 24th by Sepulchral Productions, a label that has been home to many brilliant releases of Québécois black metal.
Chante, Ô Flamme de la Liberté is described as “a concept album telling the legend of a pact with the Devil and the quest for a lost heritage, a dark and epic journey at the heart of Québec’s snowy forests, buried beyond the snows of ages”. And while comparisons to Forteresse are inevitable, the music is different in significant ways and thus should be considered on its own, out of the imposing shadow of Forteresse.
As mentioned above, we’ve already written about the album’s opening two tracks, “Ouverture” and “Sonne, le Glas Funèbre”. The overture consists of wind-sound and owl-hoot, and the intermittent swelling of searing symphonic melody. What also swells as the overture transitions into the second track is the sound of battering drums, gravel-chewing bass, and wretched screams. The synth melody is of the slowly cascading and panoramic kind, the kind that evokes feelings of mystery and wonder, contrasting with the tumultuous nature of all the other ingredients in the music. That majestic and mythic sheen of sound continues flowing throughout “Sonne, le Glas Funèbre”, though Serment does give us chances to rock out, and Moribond also wails, nearly singing, but without losing the sensation of passion and pain in his voice.
The coupling of panoramic grandeur with the raw intensity of the vocals and the guitars, and the torrential quality of the percussion, is a gripping sensation, and so is the visceral, “physical” quality of the thundering riffs and neck-cracking beats. Together, those elements create feelings of awe and reverence, as well as fierce and fiery intensity. As if to remind us that the music is drawing upon wellsprings of history, it also ends in the sound of galloping hooves.
Those same qualities, and others, make the four songs that follow just as riveting. The synths in “Par-Delà Collines et Rivières” blaze in sun-like brilliance but also channel sensations of unearthly mystery, tension-filled despondency, and wrenching despair, while Moribond‘s shattering screams and the pulse-pounding impact of the hurtling drums are respectively frightening and electrifying. The intensity of the music is unrelenting, right up to the sounds of cold wind and crackling fire at the end.
All of the songs flow seamlessly from one to the next, and they have a narrative quality, even though you can’t make out the lyrics. Simply the flow of the music creates a feeling of hearing an epic tale. “Flamme Hivernale” seems to relate visions of epic conflict, of defiance, bloodshed, and death on a titanic scale. As the synth melody morphs, the music becomes crushingly grim and tragic, but the fire and the fight in the music seem unquenchable (and the pounding rhythms will give your neck a good workout too).
Serment doesn’t trifle in mundane or minuscule things. It lives on a high plane of sweeping power, amongst the tides of history and the forces of memory and imagination. The music is completely enveloping. “Avant que ne Meure la Gloire” is another giant sonic vortex, whose waves of melody are majestic but also frightening. The intensity becomes apocalyptic, but as is so often true in these songs, there’s a deep sense of melancholy, which becomes most saturating when the drums slow to a stately pace. And when the drums vanish altogether, the sheen of the music seems to carry us away into celestial realms.
It would go too far to say that the album, even though magnificent in its scope and mythic in its atmosphere, has severed all ties to the here-and-now. Vistas of breathtaking natural landscapes, and the chill of a hostile wilderness, rise up within the music — and those natural wonders still surround us if we are only open to them. And the strong emotions in the music are still very human. “Hymne pour la Patrie” is spectacular, but also obviously heart-felt. Full of wonder, it still has a wistful and heart-broken quality, and a sense of yearning comes through in the slow waves of gleaming melody. Stripped of the drums and the voice, it’s an ambient piece that becomes a kind of intense reverie. It seems like a piercing meditation on vanishing ideals and a haunting remembrance. And as the album began with the sound of bitter winter winds, so it ends the same way.
To repeat, Sepulchral Productions will release Chante, Ô Flamme de la Liberté on June 24th. It’s available for pre-order now. We hope you enjoy the record as much as we have!