People don’t normally consider Canada to be a hotbed of extreme metal. When talking about the best black or death metal bands, Scandinavia is constantly mentioned, along with a few American bands, German bands and various regional scenes but the Canadian scene is often overlooked which is a shame because some of the bands to come out of the Great White North are some of the best bands metal has to offer.
From Slaughter and Razor in the 80s to churning out some of the most Bestial war marches ever unleashed upon the underground with bands like Blasphemy, Conqueror, and Revenge, Canada has had a long and vibrant history of raising hell and violent fury. Interestingly enough, as there are cultural and linguistic differences between the Quebec region and the rest of Canada, so too does it hold true, it seems, for the metal being created in those areas. Métal Noir Québécois, as the first Forteresse album of the same title shows, is almost a style unto itself. The blasphemous martial war cries of bands like Antediluvian and Weapon bear little to no resemblance to the anguished shrieks and icy, yet often beautiful, atmospheres generated by the Métal Noir Québécois bands. Sepulchral Productions is the label that has handled bands playing in this style and this March, they’ve released a four-way split featuring Sepulchral Productions bands, past and present, with a typical penchant for chilly, gorgeous atmospheres and Québécois pride.
The first track, “Wendigo”, is by Forteresse, known for being quite explicit about their desire for an independent Québec and referring to their gigs as “Rituels Patriotiques”. They kick things off with some glacial fury and a nice thrashy rhythm and atmosphere. It’s clear they’re inspired by the second-wave of black metal in both Scandinavia and France. There always existed a sense of melancholy in the riffs churned out by those in the early French second-wave black metal scene (Les Légions Noires) and that element is definitely present on this Forteresse song. The production is appropriately raw here and though the band is operating within some clearly defined musical boundaries, they still manage to sound fresh and compelling. Excellent track. 9/10
The next song, “Les bois des belles” (The beautiful wood) is by Chasse-Galerie. We’ve already settled into a melodic groove that was all but completely absent in the last song. There’s a very nice production job on this too with every instrument heard pretty clearly in the mix. The vocals have more of an ethereal, spectral accent to them. Nothing here that really pushes too many boundaries or blows one away, but there are some damn fine melodies here that, given the right mood, can sound quite majestic. I just wish they had gone a little bit bigger with their approach 7.5/10
Monarque is up next with “La Griffe du Diable” (The claw of the devil) and we’ve got one hell of an intro scream to kick things off. Monarque (also the name of the vocalist and main instrumentalist in the band) vocals on this track are blisteringly cold and tortured. I haven’t heard black metal vocals quite as biting and anguished since the first Peste Noire LP. The melodies here are a bit more compelling than the previous song and add a lot to the frigid atmosphere conjured up by Monarque’s vocals. These guys are old-school in the sense that while they may be a Métal Noir Québécois band technically and they do share members with the nationalist bands on this split, Monarque is all about the Satan. This is nasty, cold, and full of hatred, which is just how traditional black metal should be. 9/10
Csejthe are the final band with “Murmures Nocturnes” (Nocturnal Murmurs) and before when I said that I wish Chasse-Galerie had gone a bit bigger, this is what I meant by it. This kind of black metal demands a band bring some bomastic cinematic qualities to it. This isn’t the punk/thrash riffs of Darkthrone or the full-blown Santanic death worshipping assault of Blasphemy. This is the type of music that invokes a moonlit panoramic view of a vast winter landscape. It’s grandiose, it’s emotional, and it’s absolutely wonderful. A great way to finish off this split. 9.5/10