This road to this album premiere began in much the same way as yesterday’s premiere of the superb new album by Serment. In mid-May we posted an article by our friend Speelie that focused on Métal Noir Québécois. Along with Serment, it included the news that Sepulchral Productions would also be releasing, on the same day, the debut of Québec project Sombre Héritage, the title of which is Alpha Ursae Minoris.
With our interest having been piqued by that news, we paid close attention to the first track that Sepulchral Productions revealed from the album, a song that shares the band’s name — and it proved to be damned exciting, prompting the inclusion of the song in one of our Shades of Black features. And now we have the chance to bring you a stream of the entire record in advance of its June 24 release date.
Sombre Héritage is the solo project of Québec veteran Exu, from Hak-Ed Damm. There are obvious celestial references in the name of the album, which seems to refer to Polaris, also known as the North Star and as Alpha Ursae Minoris, because it is the brightest star in constellation of Ursa Minor.
The album’s opening track is also named “Polaris“. It sets the stage for the album with the sounds of thunder, rain, and harsh, deeply penetrating chords that ring and rake in tones that are powerful, and powerfully melancholy in their mood, accompanied by wild, larynx-shredding shrieks that spear out from the enveloping riffs and vibrant drumming. The stage is also set by Exu‘s demonstration of a knack for dynamism, as he changes the riffing repeatedly, moving into jagged, pulse-pounding surges, dismal arpeggios, and ferocious, boiling onslaughts propelled by hyper-blasting drumwork.
If there is a template for the album to be discerned from “Polaris”, it’s a blueprint that gives prominence to the power of the riff, and Exu‘s talent in that respect is very impressive. His songwriting and performance skill deliver not only music of visceral, electrifying energy but also melodies that convey moods and emotions with equal potency.
The melodies in “Sombre Héritage“, for example, are both fiery and gloomy but thoroughly entrancing. The music’s emotional intensity is enhanced by the feverishness of the guitar and the scintillating flicker of the leads, as well as by those high, larynx-shredding vocals and bursts of jet-speed drumming and hurtling bass notes. But the song also creates an atmosphere of grandeur through what sound like choral voices soaring in reverence. Indeed, the song as a whole, even as it brings the blood to a boil, channels the kind of solemn grandeur that hearkens back to long-lost ages. And it really gets stuck in the head like a spike.
While moody and dark in its mood, “Nature Souillée” gets stuck in the head too, thanks to rocking rhythms and pulsating fretwork. The song has a depressive cast, which deepens to the point of oppressive hopelessness when the riffing becomes lower and heavier, yet it’s a spellbinding track — until the spell is broken by a truly explosive and ravaging outburst just after a brief but very seductive guitar instrumental in the song’s back half.
Dark moods of melancholy, anguish, and desperation become a persistent theme throughout the music, but Exu creates those feelings through relentlessly powerful sounds, while continuing to vary the pacing and the emotional shading of the music. He also adds other accents, including hallowed baritone choral singing in “Déchéance”
And along with channeling all those dark moods with such conviction and effectiveness, Sombre Héritage also repeatedly lifts the music to majestic heights, and gives free rein to fire and fury, as in “Dissidence“, which seems like a racing, uncontainable conflagration in its most turbo-charged passages (which feature extravagant drumwork).
After the frequently blood-boiling torrents of “Dissidence”, the closing track “Ténèbres” slows the pace and increases the gloom, as its title would suggest. All the songs on the album have a heavy undercurrent as a foundation for all the riveting guitar permutations and dynamic drumming, but “Ténèbres” seems even heavier, perhaps because the melodies are so terribly downcast. The song grinds away at the soul, though it’s as transfixing as everything else, thanks in part to the wide array of vocals, which include stately singing as well as screaming, and the enthralling power of the brooding melodies. It’s a remarkable song, becomes it seems both introspective and regal, elevating its despondency like the raising of a black monument to sorrow.
The entire album is remarkable, a portrait of darkness in vivid and indelible strokes that both quicken the blood and haunt the mind. Make time to listen to all of it (and you can pre-order it now if you like it as much as we do).