review by: Daniel Walker
One particular musical aspect about black metal and ambient that sets it apart from other genres is that it doesn't as routinely change its mood and technique to acquiesce anything thematic that it is accommodating. For example, many otherwise non-threatening power metal bands in this modern era are producing dark concept albums and darkening their keyboards and vocals to fit the exponentially darker storylines.
Within black metal circles, there's a reverse trend in which you are more likely to encounter a band or album that tackles a benign topic with an uncompromising or stagnant musical fashion. Black metal bands are unlikely to pacify their sounds to fit a topic that is admittedly less extreme than their usual fare, and if they are conquering an extreme subject, chances are their music is pretty austere to begin with; therefore, they're not stretching themselves too much.
Canada's Forteresse falls somewhere in between these two ideologies with their most recent album, Les Hivers de Notre Epoque. The band hails from Quebec and sings about Quebecois nationalism and history. It's refreshing to find a band that writes from such a natural well of inspiration as their own heritage and sense of patriotism.
With the lyrical topics being so personal and familiar to the project, the music possesses an obvious conviction, even if you can't translate the French. It's not really a concept album, but by simply knowing what the band stands for and the translation of the album title (The Winters of Our Age), you can sense the unity throughout the recording.
Somewhat like Nile, Forteresse is a concept band. Like many Quebecois, the members of Forteresse undoubtedly yearn for sovereignty, so there's a certain fervor in the music. However, they tend to fall on the ambient side of the spectrum, so beefing up the music to suit their passions isn't too high on the agenda. Theoretically, it would be counterproductive.
Instead, they make their point through harrowing, repetitious soundscapes which give no credence to the sense of normal time management that most recorded music has. Not to say that the music groans until the brink of tedium, but rather that the band says "Man, these three or four notes create a wonderfully bleak or contemplative effect... let's drone them out for a little while." Ardent followers of ambient expect this sort of homogeneity. It tends to have just enough variation to give the song a sense of completeness whilst carefully avoiding too many twists and turns. It's nice to hear music sometimes that's more focused on creating and maintaining a mood.
The music of Les Hivers de Notre Epoque is in an odd position because it's not meant to relax or incite you. The aura of it can be relaxing, but the menacing undercurrent of blastbeats and constant drumming tends to snap you out of that tranquil state or at least prevent you from feeling too lethargic. The thing about the drumming is that it is relegated to the background continuously. In other words, it's drowned out by the steady cascade of synth work, perhaps purposefully.
The Olde English font and black-and-white color scheme betrays the band's minimalist preferences. Loud drumming might have given the record a projection of full-on black metal fury or hatred, and that's something the group didn't want to convey. They are rather more relatively peaceful protesters.
With songs that aren't full of memorable solos or choruses, it's important to make subtle variations in the music so the listener won't be lulled into indifference. Perhaps the best track is the instrumental opener because it is neither too long nor too short, uses an intriguing primitive clacking beat, and isn't too repetitive. However, the average music lover or metalhead won't want to listen to this everyday. For the skin and bones lot... well, these could be your daily tunes. (6.8/10)
review by: Roberto Martinelli
Visually, Les Hivers de Notre Epoque is as intriguing and exciting as the debut, Metal Noir Quebecois. This time, the representations of austere winter are married with the continued theme of national pride, instilling a desire to delve into Forteresse’s world.
Unfortunately, the music is much less well accomplished this time around. Where the debut has an unabashed verve in how it portrayed its compositions, the follow-up album’s music is slower and less passionate because of it. The programmed percussion is punchless, and the music is often impotent and aimless, relying far too much on the tried-and-true. (4/10)