New From Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions
Despite consistently putting out high quality black metal, French label Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions doesn’t always seem to get the attention it deserves. Let’s work on that by checking out two of their recent releases from Time Lurker and Au-Dessus.
Time Lurker is a one-man black metal project from Strasbourg, France. I’m not particularly sharp in my French geography, but judging by Time Lurker’s sound, I picture Strasbourg having a lot of wispy fog floating over dismal lakes, gray cityscapes, and only pockets of withering trees. This isn’t black metal for people escaping humanity to linger in the resplendent isolation of nature. No, sad traveler, this is black metal for people fully immersed in the disease that is humankind, and the album is an anthem for the utter despondency that comes with reflecting on our worst traits. Borrowing ideas from post-black metal, DSBM, and atmospheric black metal, Time Lurker creates a sound that reflects the anguish of existence as well as the urgency of progress.
I’m not sure what sole member Mick’s primary instrument is, but I want to guess that he started as a drummer. His guitar work conjures a mournful, tragic atmosphere to great effect, but it all seems tied to the ever-changing monster of rhythmic energy provided by the drums. “Ethereal Hands” is a twisting, writhing burner of a track with said rhythmic energy on full display, and the wailing, unhinged vocals in the second half make no doubt of Time Lurker’s utter despair at humanity. And, if that song doesn’t have you convinced, the aptly named “No Way Out From Mankind” seems bent on positively wrecking any glimmer of hope held by the audience. It blasts feverishly out of the gate and scrambles through a maze of harrowing shrieks, frenzied drumming, and violent guitar work that all seems ready to explode at any point. Top to bottom, the album is an excellent offering for anyone ready to take a blackened road to the very brink of despair.
Lithuania’s Au-Dessus, however, takes a different path to desolation. They are very fitting label mates for Déluge, a band I very positively reviewed back in 2015, though I must admit there’s only a slight stylistic connection. The common thread I hear is that, like Déluge’s Æther, Au-Dessus’ End of Chapter sounds like a relentlessly bleak downpour of rain. Sometimes it drizzles, sometimes it’s a steady wall, and quite often it’s an absolute monsoon. The band’s overall sound exists somewhere in the vast, indefinable landscape of post-black metal, where blast beats still reign supreme but a dark, catchy sense of melodicism is there is hefty doses. Full-bodied guitar and bass tones and big, natural drum sounds create a satisfyingly thick atmosphere, while the desperately passionate vocals tie everything together perfectly. I can’t help but picture a steady, oppressive rainfall obscuring my vision while ghostly figures move through the haze, sometimes dancing languidly and sometimes twisting violently.
Despite the consistent feeling of rainfall, I found a healthy diversity in the album. For every prolonged wall of sound there was a heavy, vicious stomping section that took notes from other subgenres. For every spacious and atmospheric tangent there was a more technical-minded interruption that kept each song moving forward. Tracks “VI” and “IX” (the seven songs are titled by Roman numerals, but go VI-XII, continuing from songs I-V on their 2015 self-titled EP) are brilliant examples of this, both of which pour a variety of volatile flavors into a cauldron, add positively manic-sounding vocals, and stir everything violently. The result, as it is across the whole album, is a highly engaging brand of energetic yet absolutely despondent black metal. Do not sleep on this one.