“Baroque classical avant-garde black metal”. “Hieratic songs built like cathedrals of noble darkness”. These words were my initial introduction to this work and band.
Six monstrous pieces comprise “Grand Oeuvre”. There’s no wasting time. We are immediately launched into vast grey wastelands with the drum pounding steadily and weighty sounds echoing out. The organ and surrounds suggest discreetly the presence of that cathedral bearing its power and authority. The sounds evoke a terrible scene. It’s like punishment and an army going to war. As “Oeuvre au Noir” builds up majestically in post metal style, the vocalist captures the terrible scene with his diction. It is awesome. Without allowing us to take air, the storm continues and launches us headlong into the black metal atmosphere of “Corps Glorieux”. Children should be warned. The narrator cries desperately and roars amid the turbulence. There is no mercy as the wall of sound surges and thunders forward. There’s no going back.
Of course this was never going to burst into jollity, and nor should it. What is impressive is the continuation of dark intensity. The sleeve art work conveys strong elements of chaos and occult influences. As I listened to “Nobles Luminaires” I was listening to murderous preachings. Less turbulent than the first three tracks, this time it has added menace and accumulated funereal tones. Another awe-inspiring transition takes back into the cathedral and controlled fury of “Grand Architecte”. This is utterly remorseless punishment, black, doom-like intensity. But it doesn’t linger, quickening in pace but still invading our minds and hanging over us like a guillotine. In spite of its dispassion, it has a human aura by virtue of its melancholy and the narrator’s pleas – unfortunately the artwork made them too obscure for me to read but I got the point. As the track goes on, the situation becomes more angst-ridden and the “grand architecte” conveys nothing but despair and death. “Lueur Emérite” picks up the solemnity of the occasion but soon develops into a powerful black hymn. The narration has now transformed into helpless screams as the whisper of death passes through the deep black veins of this track. I don’t where the light (lueur) is because it isn’t here. The screams turn to dark moans and echoing voices as the dirge runs remorselessly on. It is the stuff of nightmares. I must confess that the spoken words at the end of this track reminded me of old station announcements on Paris Gare du Nord, but as ever there was no time for reflection as the final slab “Tribut Solonnel” is upon us. Heavy as lead, it weighs down upon us and oscillates between threat and violent assault. The storm whips up and once more we are helpless in this turbulence and chaos that Triste Terre so skilfully present for us.
“Grand Oeuvre” is impressive. It is always chilly and never compromising. Parts of it are breathtaking. As atmospheric black metal goes, this massive album finds itself at the top of a very dark and sinister tree.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)