French Smohalla is a pretty singular three-piece. There are times when I can’t make myself listen to them, there just isn’t anything there for me to enjoy. Then it turns, and I can’t keep myself from listening to their otherworldly harmonious chaos. There is something in their strange sound (which I described in my review of their masterful debut demo Smolensk Combustion some months ago, read that one after this, the foundations are still the same). I can’t put my finger to it, but it’s as captivating as it is oppressive. Which is pretty amazing seeing how this is only their second release since their formation early 2006!
Nova Persei is the latest instalment of record label God Is Myth’s H.P. Lovecraft series, a series of 3″ cds inspired by and dedicated to the horror writer of all times, the gentleman of Providence. Haven’t read? Do so, then come back feeling a little embarrassed. On this EP Smohalla has reached into the strange story of Joe Slaader as told in “Beyond The Wall Of Sleep”, a primitive hillbilly peasant going crazy because of unwholesome dreams of stellar battle – he has, in fact, within him the residing spirit of Nova Persei, a nova exploding (for real) in 1901 only to fade again some weeks later. Rather than focusing on the horror aspects, Smohalla brings out the grandeur of the cosmic chaotic battle between Nova Persei and the demon star Algol (track 4 and 5), the beauty of Slaader’s otherworldly dreams (track 3), and his inevitable fall (track 2 and 6) – that is, no Cthulhu here. Being an avid Lovecraft enthusiast, I was very pleased with the prospect of musicians focusing on other facets of this master of the weird and stellar horrors, rather than the pretty used up monster worship one is usually facing when dealing with Lovecraft-inspired metal. Does Smohalla succeed? Yes, they do.
Jazzy beats, proggy mellotrons and otherworldly choirs, explosions of avant-black savage dissonance as chaotic as luring… and something very hard to pinpoint. It is indeed very dramatic and cinematic, with horn sections at times turning my mind to Bal-Sagoth’s Battle Magic, and an omnipresent cold feeling of space, being lost and quite alone in space, not at all dissimilar to what the better parts of Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals did to my teenage self back in the days – especially the chord sequence of the epic ‘Extinction’ touches the soul same way ‘The Last Day On Earth’ did. That kind of cold, but in a completely different way – but then again, not at all. Surges of post metal/rock/whatever, framed and ornamented by very black tremolo lines, the most icy of synths, and Slo’s ever-changing vocals – ghastly distant howls, clean singing (in both French and English – bilingualism rules) which the mob would deem as “operatic”. This is… wonderous. The future, at least parts of it, is Smohalla’s. And note that, while writing this, I’m listening to Nova Persei for the first time in about a month, not even wanting to listen to it the past weeks. Smohalla does that to you, or at least to me, in a way I’ve actually never experienced before. Strange. Really. And by the way, it was sold out on November 11, so chances are probably pretty slim of getting hold of a copy. Unfortunately.
(…and an additional THANK YOU for NOT programming the drums…)
Release: Autumn 2007
Label: God Is Myth
Avantgenre: Ambient Symphonic Dream Metal (weird)
Duration: 21 Minutes
Official site: http://smohalla.fr.nf/
Review online since: 15.12.2007 / 17:08:38
1. Aux Premières Eternités
2. Les Yeux Du Temps
4. Nova Persei