The Loire is the longest river in France, rising in the French Massif Central, flowing north through Nevers to Orléans, and then west through Tours and Nantes until it reaches the Bay of Biscay at the Atlantic Ocean, more than 1,000 km (roughly 625 miles) from where it began. The history of human civilization along its course is ancient, still evidenced by the presence of over a thousand châteaux along its shores, ranging in their inception from the early medieval to the late Renaissance periods.
There was a time not so long ago when the Loire was also a major channel of commerce, crowded with merchant vessels, as well as a means of transporting people across the country. Among the commercial vessels were flat-bottomed barges used to move salt and other goods as well as sand dredged from the river itself and used in construction. In time, all the economic activity and transport dwindled and decayed, and today the Loire has largely returned to a wild state, though the surrounding architectures are still reminders of long-gone eras.
In the west, on its way to Nantes, the Loire enters Bretagne (French Brittany), the home of the black metal band Hanternoz and the two people who collaborate in it — Hyvermor (Véhémence, Grylle, Régiment) and Sparda (Créatures, Cataèdes). Their newest work as Hanternoz, an album named Au Fleuve de Loire, is a tribute to the great river, one presented in many ways, “from the natural point of view of endangered species to the many drowned souls it carries, from the Industrial Era and mechanization to the medieval history, from the fishing industry (viewed from the fishes’ point of view!) to the memories of the lyricist’s childhood”.
The album will be released by Antiq Records on May 3rd. Two songs from the album have been previously revealed, and today we present a third one — “Bateliers de Loire“.
The song’s lyrics are voiced in a Loire dialect that we’re told may be difficult for even French people to decipher, and they narrate one man telling another of his plan to bring wine down the Loire to Nantes and then to return upstream in the wind. It is also about the decline of commerce on the river, the return of wilderness, and the hard choices those changes brought as livelihoods were lost and industries vanished. It was also inspired by the lyricist’s memories of playing on one of the old sand barges in his childhood.
Certainly atypical subject matter for a black metal song (or album). The music itself is also atypical, incorporating old traditional instruments and melodic styles to help create a particular sense of time and place. It recalls both medieval and more modern eras, and channels ranging moods as well — feelings of nostalgia and remorse, wildness and defiance. The music flows in stately and solemn tones but also jolts and batters, darts and dances, seethes and soars, and there is spine-tingling fervor in both the singing and the savage snarls. As the drumming becomes more riotous and the layered instrumentation more fiery, it gets the adrenaline flowing and the blood pumping.
Hanternoz tell us this: “‘Everything now takes a tragic and beautiful meaning’ is one of the lyric sentences. This song is for everyone who has memories around a big river”.
Through the player below you’ll also be able to hear the first two songs that debuted from the album, “À Cul de Grève“ and “Vieille Nasse Crevée“. The first of those launches with a piston-pumping drum-drive and a gripping, glorious riff that has the resonance of ancient music. The song further includes vibrant fretwork flurries over head-moving beats, plus vocals that again mix together soaring song and vicious snarls. There’s a feeling of savage, whirling joy and irrepressible resilience in the music — and the opening melodic riff sinks deeper and deeper into the mind every time it returns. The variations on that theme (which give it a darker shade) are also beautifully made.
The second song to be revealed, “Vieille Nasse Crevée”, is the longest of these three, extending to more than 10 1/2 minutes. It begins in a blaze, drums clattering and clobbering and the riffing in a fever, and then begins twisting and turning in multiple directions, from sprite-like keyboards glittering above bubbling bass tones and jabbing guitar to fleet-fingered, whirling-dervish riffing that seems both joyful and dangerously unhinged, as well as vibrant strummed acoustic melodies matched with physically compulsive rhythms. and hell-for-leather racing and ravaging. The extravagant cornucopia of vocal textures and other instrumental accents add to the richness of this genuine sonic spectacle, which has the capacity to sweep you off your feet.
The album includes includes collaborative appearances by Spellbound (Aorlhac), Cervantès (Darkenhold), and Géraud (Borgia). The cover artwork for Au Fleuve de Loire was made by David Thiérrée. Antiq will release it (on May 3rd) on digibook CD and double-LP vinyl formats.