by Janet Willis
Every time this album comes on in my “reviews” playlist it reminds me a lot of the Finnish female solo act Cold who released that harsh and primitive scratchy black metal album “Anguished” last Winter on Hammer of Hate. The similarity is in the shriek of the vocals, it’s somewhere between a banshee screech and a psychotic demoness (oh so fitting for the evil maiden behind Cold). Well, mainly because the last track “Les Bucherons” plays first and starts out that way.
Now that I’m on the subject of “Les bucherons”, the actual sound is abysmal and heavy like treading in quick setting cement, it almost sounds like funeral doom/Evoken/Esoteric with vocals ranging form the description above to a screeching like rats feasting and a whisper. Suddenly in the last 2 minutes of the song the tempo blasts into sonic snarling black metal mode.
The rest of the album is divided up into 4 hymns: Hymne I-IV, each intending to express the trenchant and unforgiving winters in Quebec, with impenetrable coats of throbbing treble guitar powerchord eruptions that suffocate and bury the listener in it’s blizzard of blackness and glacial atmospheres. In places there are brief melodic acoustic serenades that give an almost ancient folklore flavor and bring in some bleak beauty into something inspired by stark and blank canvases of white ice.
“Hymne 1” sets the tone of the album starting out with a blizzard’s initial brutal hit, with screeching vocals like a violent storm gust, lots of aggressive treble guitar chords and pounding percussion to completely surround you in chaos.
“Hymne 2” is something of it’s own designing, it’s hypnotic and atmospheric at times to the point of majestic and pagan, melodic and smooth, and then evil and unpredictable as it scratches and claws out at you. Amidst the explosive hostility and violence of Mother Nature’s harshness are some thick, darkly haunting melodic moments that really create the mood of being buried in blankets of snow and the density of the guitar chords are reminiscent of trying to walk against a snowstorm wind coming at you at 30-40MPH.
“Hymne 4” ends the saga in an instrumental and solemn melody for about 1.5 minutes, then with a scream the guitar blazes through and there’s a sense of hope and tranquility returning as if the winter is over and things return to life.
The harsh arctic landscapes and experiences are not only brought to life through these five songs as intended, but NeN manages to keep things visceral and intense and throw in some melodies, play with rhythms, and still keep it black metal. Don’t expect the post Burzum generics, shoegaze, or symphonic stuff here. NeN keeps it well below freezing and seething with animosity and all by means of: a guitar, some synth for background effects, drum machine, and even some addicting riff/rhythm play on “Hymne 3”. So even as an already made fan of this act, I have to say that my expectations were exceeded with this release and I really do enjoy their prior catalog so expect a little bias on my part but also trust that’s a great listen!!!!