Bleak Canadian ambient black metal at its best
Despite the existence of Neige Et Noirceur (which translates to Snow and Blackness) for the better part of the six years, and a string of releases to their name, I don’t have a great deal of the Montreal (Quebec, Canada) based outfit’s past work. Still, I have heard some of the band’s music, most notably their second full-length effort, La Seigneurie Des Loups (released in 2010), which I thought was kind of interesting, if only from a musical and performance point of view (the band’s French lyrics make it hard to understand what the band are trying to portray in terms of concept and in the thematic sense). So here we are with Neige Et Noirceur’s third full-length outing, Hymnes de la Montagne Noire, and once again it’s a journey into the cold depths of the deep Canadian wilds.
The album is essentially broken into five chapters, all of which flow into one another to make one long piece of art with several different pieces and the first to start off this work known as Hymnes de la Montagne Noire is Hymne I - La Grande Faucheuse Ouvre la Marche. Going straight for the throat right from the start, Zifond (who is the sole member of Neige Et Noirceur) immediately pushes the song into high speed with an attacking blitz of savage black metal for its first minute, before tapering down the aggression to lock into a somewhat melodic groove where the use of keyboards, strong and steady drums and guitar riffs are delivered towards something a little more memorable. The vocals are a mix of raspy guttural growls and Dani Filth (Cradle of Filth) like shrieks, with little in the way of warmth, with the odd atmospheric passage helping to break up the song to allow a bit more variation. Overall, it’s a solid opener, and an intriguing start to the album.
Hymne II - Neige Noire is introduced by way of a great march-like introduction before settling into an all out blistering assault. But rather than settle for an attack all the way through, the song continually shifts between huge melodic keyboard harmonies, atmospheric breakdowns and some pockets of experimental noises. Although a little patchy in places, the song does work more than not.
Despite its lengthy running time (clocking in over the ten minute mark), Hymne III - Là Où Demeure la Sorcière des Neiges boasts enough twists and variation in tempos to keep things interesting enough without getting bored, while the relatively short Hymne IV - L’Aube des Magiciens stands out as a personal favourite with its gentle build up and heavier tail end, and the overuse subtly of melody within the song structures.
The final suite, Hymne V - Le Chemin de la Montagne Noire, is another epic that runs for close to 11 minutes that stands apart from the other chapters with its odd sample breaking up the monotony of raw blackened riffing, and the greater use of keyboards and guitars to create an almost doom/droning atmosphere in places.
Finishing up the album is a cover of Bérurier Noir’s Les Bûcherons (from the French punk/rock act’s Nada 84 seven inch from 1984), which although quite well done, sounds a little tacked on given its different feel and vibe to the rest of the album.
Although having only had a passing interest in Neige Et Noirceur, I was impressed with what the band had to offer on Hymnes de la Montagne Noire. And while it’s far from original or unique, I can attest that in terms of ambient black metal, Neige Et Noirceur does it exceedingly well.