Misperceptions are often based on insufficient investigation. This has always been true, but seems even more pervasive in the current era, when opinions are often formed based on superficial experience and then become immune to change. When did we become so unreceptive to reconsideration and so self-assured in our ignorance? (I don’t mean you in particular, of course, but rather humanity in general.)
In the grand scheme of things, in which we have daily reminders of ignorance leading to misery and death, black metal may be a relatively inconsequential example of this phenomenon, but it’s an example nonetheless. On a daily basis I come across sentiments to the effect that black metal is hide-bound and resistant to change, stuck in the past and plagued by monotony. But that’s just because too many people aren’t willing to investigate, and to challenge their own conceptions (or pre-conceptions).
Which brings us to Void Paradigm.
This French black metal trio (based in Rouen) is composed of members of such bands as Sordide, Ataraxie, and Funeralium, which should be enough to draw your interest, even if you haven’t partaken of the unusual delights to be found in their first two albums, Void Paradigm (2012) and Earth’s Disease (2015). They are definitely not hide-bound or conventional in their musical approach, as will become even more evident upon the release of their new album Ultime Pulsation | Demain Brûle (which will happen on November 6th via the band’s new label Avantgarde Music).
The album is so named because it consists of two tracks, “Ultime Pulsation” and “Demain Brûle”, each of them more than 19 minutes long. Unlike most metal songs, these did not begin as a sequence of riffs sketched out on guitar or keyboard. Instead, as composer and guitarist Julien Payan explains, he was trained in a classical composition education, and so he often wrote the music before playing it, “in order to break the automatic riffing and to try and go somewhere else”:
“For these two long songs, I experimented with a kind of semi-automatic writing, letting my mind wander around the idea of a collapsing world. I wanted to have both versification and free words altogether, to fit the different atmospheres of the music”.
And in doing that he relied on a twelve-scale composition technique, a method of composing with twelve tones which are related only with one another developed in the early 20th Century — which explains the shorthand reference to Void Paradigm as “dodecatonic black metal”.
Of these two new songs, Julien further explains that “Ultime Pulsation” (The Ultimate Pulse) “evokes the unavoidable fall towards this final pulse of the world, of humanity, of civilisation, which seems to get closer and closer”, while “Demain Brûle” (“Tomorrow Burns”) represents “a personification which becomes something or someone hostile, unsafe, hazardous”.
It’s the first of these two long tracks that we present today.
Over the course of these 19+ minutes, the music creates a changing panorama of sensations. It pounds and smashes, crashes and clashes, blares and flares, slashes like a scythe, swarms in dissonant and destabilizing frenzies, and darts about like flocking birds driven mad. Meanwhile, vocalist Jonathan Théry howls and screams in raw, vehement tones and drummer Alexis Damien switches gears, patterns, and percussive tones in sharply executed twists and turns.
The composition is intricate and multi-faceted, and creates a musical kaleidoscope of changing instrumental interplay. The often unpredictable course-changes are mentally engrossing (and often bewildering), but anchored by the recurrence of hard-slugging, granite-heavy rhythms that have reptile-brain appeal and spine-shaking power. That gives you something to hang onto in the midst of the technically impressive instrumental mania.
But to be clear, mania doesn’t completely rule the day. The music also segues into hallucinatory realms. The bass-and-drum combinations are no less compelling, they just take their inventive combinations into different stylistic territory (with a jazz-like influence), and the guitars gleam and ring out in mesmerizing though still mercurial ways, creating tone poems that are hypnotic. That digression also gives Théry a chance to create his own changing vocal expressions (which are all frightening).
When the music segues away from that bright and seductive digression, it takes a harrowing turn — becoming unnerving in its oppressive and tension-filled mood, augmented by Jonathan Théry‘s bestial growls and tortured screams — and then erupting in a spasm of calamity. The song transforms into a symphony of pain and hopelessness, culminating in Alexis Damien‘s doomed pounding. After what has preceded those final rhythms, they sound like the slowed beating of a dying heart… which is soon silenced.
A measure of the song’s success is how easy it is to lose track of time in the midst of this extravagant labyrinth of sounds, and how wide-eyed in fascination it leaves you, even though it is in many ways as chilling an experience as it is a thrilling one.
So, set aside whatever preconceptions you may have, open your mind and your heart, and let this song spirit you away, perhaps to places you haven’t been before.
Avantgarde Music will release Ultime Pulsation | Demain Brûle on LP and CD, as well as digitally, and you can explore all the options via the links below: