A great sound and atmosphere but a little short on ideas
With the relative affordability of home recording equipment these days, putting together a respectable one man band is far from the daunting, barely attainable task it once was, but the same truths apply to the one man band as they do to regular bands in that anyone can pick up an instrument (or many instruments) but not everyone can make something worthwhile come out of them. Thankfully in the case of Switzerland’s Borgne and their fifth full length release, Royaume des Ombres, sole member Ormenos is both a capable musician and a capable song-writer.
With a black metal sound that has a distinctly bleak and doom-oriented underpinning, you can’t reasonably say that Borgne is doing anything terribly different from the litany of one man black metal projects out there but that in and of itself isn’t a bad thing (pure originality isn’t exactly prevalent in any genre these days, let’s be honest) and it’s the way in which Ormenos presents his vision that makes Royaume des Ombres the engaging and oddly accessible album that it is.
The lengthy introduction, Fall of the Lost Souls, sets the mood of the album rather well and its industrial tinges demonstrate early on what is perhaps the singular differentiating element in Borgne’s arsenal as opposed to their contemporaries. In spite of its general effectiveness at setting the mood, however, the track well and truly outlives its welcome by the time it has run its course (seriously, anyone penning a five minute ambient/industrial piece as an introduction had better be damn sure they need all of that time) and actually unintentionally serves to foreshadow the tendency of the album towards needless verbosity as a substitute for an overall lack of ideas.
For the most part the riffs that Ormenos pens are pretty good with the first couple of tracks in particular standing out as the album’s strongest offerings but, while he does present a number of compelling riffs throughout the album’s 60-odd minute duration, the real issue is that there simply aren’t enough of them to actually warrant an album of such considerable length. The end result of this is a fair amount of repetition which ultimately ends up watering down the strength of the original ideas which is a real shame because the actual vibe and atmosphere he’s crafted is very, very strong and is perhaps the album’s saving grace.
Even with the disappointing dearth of genuinely captivating moments and the frequent flirting with staleness, there is definitely something inviting and highly listenable about the album which has kept me coming back time and again, in spite of these shortcomings. The aforementioned atmosphere truly is great and it evokes a loose similarity to the sound proffered by Xasthur mixed in with, say, bands like Leviathan or Lurker of Chalice but still manages to steer clear of any obvious derivation and it is this sense of familiarity in conjunction with the moments when Ormenos does bust out a great riff that the album’s ease of access and overall appeal truly demonstrates itself.
Royaume des Ombres is far from a revelatory album for those who are into their depressive black metal and it does have its problems but it is also one of the more listenable and accessible albums of this style I’ve heard for a while which, oddly, also makes it one of the ones that’s had the most impact on me, in spite of the issues I have with it. I suspect that if it had been 10 or 15 minutes shorter or had a few more ideas to exploit then I’d be singing its praises for the foreseeable future but, unfortunately, it fell a little short of the mark, which is a real shame.