The Canadian black metal scene has more or less made quite a name for itself over the past few years. With landmark albums by artists such as Frozen Shadows, Gris, Sombres Forêts, Utlagr and Miserere Luminis; the CBM scene has really come into its own. Marked by crushing atmospheres and deeply emotional performances, this scene has really set a new bar for the newer wave of black metal bands.
This release is the newest manifesto from the atmospheric black metal project, Forteresse, entitled Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines. What you can expect is 7 tracks of deeply atmospheric black metal, punctuated with distant vocal howls, plodding drums, fuzzed out guitars and texture based keyboards/synthetics. Interspersed within the doomy black metal dirges are tranquil ambient passages than air more on the side of straight textural landscapes, than orchestral flourishes. These interludes are a nice pace-setter for the foggy black metal funeral hymns that follow them. The style of this band is much more akin to something of a Xasthur, Burzum or Gris-like sound than Darkthrone or Horna. Slow, methodical and plodding, the tempo is only a few beats quicker than a funeral doom band. Even the 'faster' parts are not much more than double time variations of the previous beat/riffing. The pace never breaks more than a mid-tempo velocity, which helps maintain the overall atmosphere, it also kind of makes things a bit monotonous.
I found myself consistently comparing this album to a sort of rehashed/watered down version of the absolutely brilliant 'First Spell' release from Gehenna (Nor). Not to say that this album is bad, but I cannot help but think that it never becomes more than mediocre throughout its playing time. The melodies are quite nice, but sometimes seem a bit too drawn-out for their own good.
I would not classify this as a "DSBM" band, but I could certainly see how it could be seen as one. The production is a bit fence-riding on this aspect as well. Everything is soaked in reverb and sounds like it was recorded in a cave. While the mix is clear, the guitar tone is not much more than a treble-y blur of buzz and the vocals sound like they were recorded about 20 feet from the microphone, but the keys and drums are done tastefully enough.
This album is bad by no means, but not really my kind of thing. Not enough variation in the sound to keep it interesting and I simply cannot help but think I have heard this record before, in a more refined (better) form. For those who like slow, depressive-esque, wannabe regal black metal, this is right up your alley. Personally, I do not think I will be listening to this record again anytime soon.