Is there anything better than unwinding at the end of the working week with a beer in your hand whilst listening to underground Black and Death Metal? It truly is a great sensation and something the masses probably would never understand, how can this music be relaxing? Yet it is, even in its most vile forms I feel like there is a certain beauty to be found amongst it. That desolate crunchy rasp you get from cranking some Archgoat or Revenge in the background, a wondrous feeling indeed. It’s times like that which make me feel like a real connoisseur of Metal, that might sound a little pretentious but it’s that sense that you feel like part of something bigger.It’s always nice to watch a band grow, and a band whom I’ve had the pleasure of watching bloom are Neige Morte. Formed in 2009 the French Black Metal outfit have been a somewhat experimental force. One whom have often lurked in the shadows with little to say or little notice taken of them. Alas I feel that the term underrated describes them perfectly. That said their prior third full length Trinnnt didn’t strike that much of a chord with me, not like their debut did at least. However, it is time for something new, coming to us through Division Records is the bands fourth full length record aptly named IIII.

There is a standard, pointless ambient, instrumental piece in The Call, thoroughly unexciting and devoid of any real focus this is a track that could’ve easily been left out. Luckily there is great power in HIcst, opening with some sort of traditional Doom Metal riffs and then plunging into some thunderous drumming and nigh on War Metal chaos as rasping spews come from the vocals. The track soon moves into building atmospheric waters at about the middle, proof that this band is all over the show, kind of like a Blackened Dillinger Escape Plan. Svart Hål proves further the wild nature of this maniacal band. The albums longest song, it blends old school Black Metal themes with Math Rock, experimental features, Atmospheric Black Metal and just riffs that shouldn’t but simply do work, quite frankly it’s a mess, but a beautiful one.

Coming into the second part of the record is And Beyond, another thoroughly predictably, pointless instrumental that serves absolutely no purpose other than to make the album slightly longer, and given that it’s already under half an hour you might as well remove these tracks. Thankfully Lämna Inga Spår follows which is another blasting of obscene Blackened filth, in some ways this track makes we want to term the band as Post-Black Metal or Avant-Garde Black Metal but even these terms don’t quite fit, truly Neige Morte are an exceptionally unique and diverse band. Iceage sees a return to the annoying interludes, but given its borderline Noise themes and longer length it doesn’t seem quite so terrible, still I’d rather another track. Finally comes the titular climax in IIII. Fuzz heavy production, like the sound of someone setting a tape recorder on fire. The song is angry and vile. However it soon moves into odd Math waters, only adding to the confusion, this sort of all over the place Black Metal leaves the listener pretty drained but none the less impressed.

I’ve been a bit of a follower of this band, as I have mentioned and IIII really sees the band ascend higher. Do I care for the instrumental/ ambient portions, not greatly. In fact, I’d like to see more on the Metal front. That said what the album does offer in a more traditionally Metal sense is very striking indeed and begs the question to me yet again of why don’t more people know this band? However, I kind of like the fact that they are so outsider that they seem like recluses even from the underground Black Metal world. It’s as if they simply don’t care about what anyone thinks, they’re just going to deliver whatever they feel like, and IIII proves that wholeheartedly. It’s a kind of refreshing and reaffirming take that this is a genre for outsiders and the weird, if you like being a part of those clubs then get on this.

(8/10 George Caley)