One thing that is truly wonderful about extreme music is its freedom to be whatever you want it to be. Gone are the constraints of more rigid genres as the door is opened to the truly panoramic vista of diversity, honesty and integrity. Black metal origins have broadened into atmospheric symphonies, depressive autobiographies, shoegazey dreams and downright obtuse moments. Whether you like it all, or very little of it, it’s essential that it’s there and continues to inject a vibrancy and a progressiveness into what could slip into being a very staid genre of music. And, on that note, I sit and listen to an album that ticks a huge number of boxes and has a cover that looks like something out of the most recent Habitat catalogue.
As soon as this project launches itself into view, I find myself absolutely captivated. This is an outpouring of desolation and despair as well as being, like many other extreme offerings from across the Channel, truly sexy atmospheric black metal. Opener ‘Cachot’ saunters into the room wearing the remnants of last night’s clothes and conjures up a bright morning sun, the smell of coffee and a crippling despair that nothing that is perfect ever is. It isn’t until the last of the four tracks, the 12 minute epic ‘Amnos’, that you realise that it’s all an illusion of a time and a place you can imagine you’ll be, yet will never reach. There is dying alone, and there is dying unknown. This is both.
‘Les Voûtes’ gives the listener a surprise. And I love it very much for that. It doesn’t even try and be something it’s not. Just as the vase of flowers can be found in the most opulent of settings and the grimiest of squalor, this is wilted and soul-watering escapism at its best. And that immediately puts this up there with the best that this year has already offered.