There are those guys with a knack for writing intriguing songs. Fellas who have something extra flowing through their veins, alongside the blood that provides oxygen and basic nutrients. And no, I don’t necessarily mean something artificial or mind-altering, although for some, it can undoubtedly lead to surprisingly artistic outbursts. I’m referring more to the natural variety, an incredible stamina to demand full attention in ferocious black metal compositions. It can hardly be denied that Ardraos, the driving force behind Sühnopfer, possesses such stamina. He who was referred to as a rascal in the review of the third album, Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes, is back for the one we’re reviewing here, Nous sommes d’Hier.
Goddamn, I wasn’t born yesterday, was I? A playful reference due to the album’s title Nous sommes d’Hier (“We are from yesterday”). And I can hardly imagine that the mastermind behind this one-man band was born yesterday, even though the black metal most certainly is. Joris wrote about it back in 2019. Sühnopfer adheres to the Swedish melodic black metal recipe, delivering dishes previously served by giants like Dissection and Sacramentum. Those dishes from yesteryears being presented here sound definitely French, in addition to the obvious Swedish influences. The tumultuous and furious expression of it all can only be the result of something being naturally abundant. A black seed that grows into an incarnation of blood and bones: Sühnopfer. Unless this guy was severely and painfully lashed with a whip before entering the recording studio, of course. If you read between the lines carefully, you might already hint at the vocal aspect of this music. Indeed, we hear very intense black metal screams. To put it simply: “not a lot of low frequencies, but lots of highs.” Hysterical and chaotic, with a keen sense of melodic structures, acoustic refinement, and sonic drum violence. This sets the stage during D.S.F.R. The clean chants, that seem to serve as a palliative medium during this mercilessly brutal black metal manifestation, are of high quality.
The previously released opening track D.S.F.R. immediately sets the tone for what we can expect from this fourth full-length. Just like on Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes, it’s challenging to distinguish all (melodic) lines in a single listen. This is one of the most important criticisms related to this release, since its impenetrability makes it difficult to see the bigger picture. However, I like my black metal to be varied and complex, so that boredom doesn’t creep in quickly. The album is also well thought-out. For example, the title track opens with the sounds of horses, trumpets, and a strong wind, before melodic guitar riffs are introduced. Next to that, we immediately hear the thunderous blast beats and the throat eruptions of Mr. Ardraos. He sounds as if been stung by a wasp: piercing screams with full conviction, indeed demanding attention. Fortunately, the music doesn’t succumb to this, as it’s almost perfectly balanced. While most bands in the genre opt for an excess of disharmony, we also hear well-placed harmonious lines here as well.
But let’s not worry, while we could never call this music cheerful. It’s clear that Sühnopfer has a story to tell, mainly through the various angles and vocal variations. I often feel like a movie is being played right before our eyes. My god, this is some really violent music, set within a complex storyline! The aforementioned Sermon sur le Trépassement is no exception, and it manages to keep the listener on the edge of his/her seat with its tragedy, especially towards the end.
After a few melodic riff structures, Pays d’Allen shows that the band can also offer something more conventional. Exciting, frenetic black metal that, due to an excess of melodies and drumming, certainly requires something extra from the listener. It pushes the boundaries of what’s possible within the musical spectrum, without descending into clichés or a cacophonous sound that’s unbearable. An acoustic passage briefly breaks away from the relentlessly intense black metal, creating some breathing space. Of course, this is only a short-lived moment of peace, because the vocals swiftly take over! The variation within the sometimes double-tracked vocals, along with the already far from dull music, provides another winning card played by this band. And then we’re hit with a diabolical track like Céron: pure horror for some, sheer delight for others. It’s should be clearly mentioned that I personally greatly enjoy this.
Black metal doesn’t always have to be jagged and icy by definition. Sühnopfer proves with Nous sommes d’Hier that aggression can coexist with harmonious melodic structures, choral singing, and a range of complex influences. That said, we should realize that this Frenchman literally blows everything and everyone away. During Derniers Sacrements, you will be sung to in a sweet manner at times, but the blasphemous ritual also seems to last an eternity. An alternation and convergence of intense pains and consequent pleasures are captured in this musical ritual. Impressive is even an understatement here!
The daring cover that serves as the closing piece of this intense Nous sommes d’Hier demonstrates that Sühnopfer is not a one-trick pony, although we already knew that. The classic Le Bal des Laze by Michel Polnareff has been reworked, with the clean vocals still intact. On top of this, we hear those familiar raspy, but not overly sharp black metal screams. It’s clever that he doesn’t add this throughout the entire length of the song, in this way allowing plenty of the original to be still be recognizable. It’s a cover with a delightful atmosphere that, like the other tracks, seems to last longer than its duration. Bravo!
Debemur Morti Productions, 2023
- Nous Sommes d’Hier
- Sermon sur le Trépassement
- Pays d’Allen
- Derniers Sacrements
- Le Bal des Laze
- Ardraos – Everything