French black metal has a good pedigree. Here’s another band, Heir, from Toulouse, who deliver “disillusioned post-black metal, dark, either fast or heavy, sometimes bright, but always dedicated to an atmosphere of contemplation or desolation”. Their CV so far comprises an EP and a split, so “Au Peuple de l’Abîme” (To the People of the Abyss) is their first full release.
From the People of the Abyss to the Century of Centuries (“Au Siècle des Siècles”) – dark and evocative black metal greets us. After initial fury, the rhythm hangs over us like a sword hanging over our heads. The lyrics, in French, are vivid, evoking echoes, loss, catastrophe and condemnation. Musically there’s a match as the eight minute piece slows down like a projection of doom. “L’Heure d’Helios” then starts moodily, but this is quickly taken over by a fireball. Heir are clearly not a band to stand still, and the slowed-down sound is eerie and shadowy. I wasn’t finding any light, rather Heir gravitate between darkness and shadows. The lyrics are full of paradox: (translated) “I was there, I was shining like a dying star …. “and I exist no more but I am still breathing”. The music picks up on these contradictions. It’s heavy and powerful but such are the transformations that it was leaving me behind a bit. The epic post metal end had no context for me.
I’m not sure why “Meltem” had a sample in German at the beginning but it did. The ensuing sounds are from a shadowy, obscure world. “Give me hope, a single reason to live”, croaks the vocalist in French. “L’Âme des Foules” (The Soul of Crowds) continues on the path of grey-black shadows laced with poison and venom – an impressive combination. I like this track. It maintains its course of thunderous pomp. Thunderous venom is what characterises “Cendres” (Ashes). Like all this work, the sounds have a distorted element about them, but we’re so rushed away in the fury that there’s no time for analysis. But then a break leads us into a quiet and haunting passage. There is a choral mood. We’ve gone from one extreme to the other. A couple of minutes of this, and we burst back into the drum-fuelled black fury. A drum roll leads us to the end.
I liked the shadowy atmospheres, which Heir create on this album. I did struggle to make sense of the shifts within these five hefty slabs, and felt that the band could have developed their musical themes more coherently so that listeners could feel more engaged. “Au Peuple de l’Abîme” was more a series of dark tableaux, impressive in their way but not ultimately fulfilling.
(6.5/10 Andrew Doherty)