I enjoyed the last Grisâtre release L’idée de Dieu which also came out on Dusktone. It was my first encounter with Rokkr the individual behind the project from France despite the fact he had been active on the demo front and released some splits prior to it. This is atypical ambient black metal done in a way that is ideal for a one man band, despite me stating from the off that the depressive flow of the music was none too original and showed more than a large nod in the direction of Xasthur in particular. I was keen to see if this was going to be the case on this second album too but quickly discovered that Rokkr has very much come into his own were and whilst there are certain unavoidable nuances to the music that are going to remind of others it is a much more accomplished work in his own right.
The album itself is divided into a short intro and three long tracks taking up bang on the 3/4 of an hour mark. It is some piano tones that minimally weep as the intro instantly evoking a sense of despair and funereality. It could not be simpler in execution but it is completely atmospheric and expressive and would have some of the old classical musicians stirring in their everlasting slumber. Once this passes into the void we are at L’Abstrait and a sudden plummet into the full might of the musicianship. The striking bass notes do again remind of the work of Malefic but the 15 minute track has plenty going in to lead you away from that path. The vocal screams are nicely defined and suitably wretched and the loud up front instrumentation acts as a windswept barrage swirling around them. There is a good grasp of melody that settles in as things take form, again it is sorrowful and etched with a feel of yearning. The production makes this sound somewhat cavernous and the thicker tones boom out with the guitars grating away incessantly. It kind of gives it all an air as though it is recorded in a decrepit mausoleum, although that could just be my imagination at play.
L’Impression moves us to the next level with a very brief touch of ambience before everything crashes in again. It is strident and full of drama and there is a certain unhinged lunacy running rife around things. Despite being able to lose yourself within this it is never going to allow you to relax much as even when tools are downed this is a sound that is as forceful and heavy as it is desolate. However this one has undeniably mellowed out somewhat and the rage is partly negated allowing the sorrow to come through, mottled and grey as it is. It leaves you wondering how the last part Opus Demen will unfold and it starts with a sound like a long sigh over sparse notes before another heartfelt, despairing melody drenches you in its tears like you have been caught in a storm and are soaked to the skin. This really is not a happy listen at all but despite having such an air of death about it, it is also paradoxically full of life. The music perhaps makes you realise that this is where you are in the grand scheme of things, there is plenty of time for death which will come calling all too soon and be black, all encompassing and everlasting.
Atmospherically bleak and heavily depressive, Esthatique is well worthy of invading your dreams with.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)