Friday, January 27, 2023

Jours Pâles - Tensions (2022)

The previous Jours Pâles album, Éclosion, was perhaps not the easiest to define, and its follow-up Tensions is a slightly stranger beast than even that. Not necessarily that it's 'strange' from a stylistic standpoint, just in that it's attempting to blend in its fundamental, melodic black metal elements with something that feels more akin to post-black or Gothic metal. I guess I'm reminded a bit of Rotting Christ's later 90s material, maybe some Katatonia, only if that were infused into a raging French black metal framework flourished with atmospheric passages. Add in all the vocals in French, which fluctuate between growls, clean swoons, and even some narrative that they place over the more medieval background acoustics ("Ecumante de Rage"), and you've got an appreciably bold, haughty sound.

I don't think it puts its best feet forward, with the sweltering 10 minute "Jour de pluie, jour de fête" lacking in memorable moments, though I guess it offers an aesthetic sweep of what the band will be exploring throughout the rest of the release. Once you get a couple tracks in, though, the tunes start feeling more desperate and catchy (again, "Ecumante de Rage"), and the melodies (title track) are more structurally interesting without sounding too derivative of those you'd hear in all the Scandinavian throwback black metal bands that are so popular lately. The bass sounds great swerving around, and the vocals are really well produced, especially when they waver at their higher end to create a pop-like, dream-like quality to some of the lines. There is also a huge level of dynamic range in the writing, the vocals might serve as a bonding agent to the material, but the music itself feels like they are exploring a lot of different riffing avenues.

I have to laud a band going out on a limb like this, and while sometimes the music doesn't hook me even so much as the debut did, and the French vocals might be limited for some audiences, they are doing something that few others are really attempting. The fluctuation between the more atmospheric black metal passages and the more accessible bits with cleaner vocals go off seamlessly, though I just can't say I was constantly being hooked, it's at least functional and offers a basis from which to venture further. Éclosion had a more mildly rustic vibe, whereas Tensions goes with a more profoundly urban architecture.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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