It has been quite a wait for the debut album of French post-Black Metal vanguardists SMOHALLA; the four years since their last proper release (Nova Persei, a 3″ cd limited to a measly 100 copies) has only been interrupted by their inclusion on a few net-only tribute releases (quite amazing renditions of EMPEROR and ULVER tunes though), and one obscure split release. The wait for new material – at times I’d given up hope – was without a doubt worth it, once ensorcelled by the kaleidoscopic chaos they emmanate… 8 tracks of elaborate and complex experimental black metal, infused with high-paced blasting chases, subterranean and submarine ambience, electronic diffusions, complex twists and turns, and stunning musicality from both Slo (main voice, guitars, keys and drums) and Camille (bass), and the several guest musicians.
SMOHALLA portrays in their music passionately dramatic cloud- and landscapes swirling about in an iridescent Doré- and Turner-like vision of skies opening into abysses; swathed in fiery cloth, distant sights of shadows falling and rising from the abyss to the heavens and back again. The truly epic proportions and complex musical sensibilities of EMPEROR at their creative apex, fused with the nocturnal carnevalesque and playful visions of ARCTURUS and late ASGAROTH and the feral convections of CONVERGE and later DEATHSPELL OMEGA, but this album rises above all petty comparison. Résilience brings me back, like a half-forgotten scent or taste of a certain cake might do, to younger years of exploring the depths of the stunning visions of my favourite albums, back to a time when doors were still in the process of being opened to places I had never seen or experienced before. Not as mere nostalgia, but as a restoration of ideals you thought were lost and dulled by adulthood realism. As they did outspokenly on the Nova Persei EP, based on the visionairy aspects of “Behind the Wall of Sleep”, Smohalla does constantly in their art makes music of that side of H.P. Lovecraft; the grand, cosmic beauties of half-remembered childhood dreams and the mysterious nature of existence, the dizzying proportions of otherwordliness.
As has become tradition with SMOHALLA, based on artistic choice or pragmatic necessity, the sound production is quite fuzzy and low on fidelity. This creates certain difficulties becoming completely immersed in the music, because of the distance in the sound – the compositions come out more of whispered dream-visions than a full-scale audial hallucination, but that in itself carries a certain charm. The music doesn’t urge itself upon the listener, doesn’t need to explain or defend itself, instead it needs the listener to activate, focus and discern the misty layers of guitars, voices and synthesizers. The clarity and unambiguity of modern metal is a big part of what makes it so tedious, and even though a top-notch production hadn’t made Smohalla indifferent or bland, the distance from the listeners evoke something that might have been lost otherwise. There are still so many layers for me left to penetrate and indulge in. A rollercoaster ride into a dream land of unimagined astral proportions, draped in fog. Or, phrased slightly more mundane, one of the best avantgarde metal albums you can hear this year.
Release: October 2011
Label: Arx Productions
Official site: http://smohalla.free.fr/
Review online since: 19.10.2011 / 23:37:21
2. Au Sol Les Toges Vides
3. Le Repos Du Lézard
4. Oracle Rouge
5. Marche Silencieuse
6. L’homme Et La Brume
7. Aux Mille Dieux
8. Nos Sages Divisent
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