Friday, March 1, 2024

Griffon - De Republica (2024)

I think if the last decade of this French black metal scene had arrived at any other point in the past of extreme music, it'd likely have received the due it deserved. Sure, Blut Aus Nord has really broken through with their creepy, masterful and dissonant soundscapes, and maybe Deathspell Omega prods the attention of the unwashed masses once in awhile, but there is such a richness and consistency to a lot of these bands that you wonder why there isn't a bigger stir. Whether they're meting out the Medieval style, or the post-black elements, or the even more avantgarde and gonzo extremes that a Pensées Nocturnes reaches, there are so many strong options out there to fill your earholes and deplete your wallets.

Griffon's another one, and I had enjoyed their Ὸ θεὀς ὸ βασιλεὐς from a few years back, as well as vocalist Aharon's side project A/Oratos more recently. And like those albums, there is a sense for classicism here which is most likely in the first of the three categories I listed above, with an emphasis on 19th century France forward. . This is essentially traditional European black metal, with a huge flair for magnificent melodies that can due justice to its historically-grounded lyrical themes. But De Republica, their third full-length, goes further with the integration of more symphonic components through the keys and choirs and shimmering, rousing acoustics. There's definitely a sense of folksy foundation meets orchestral grandeur which is constantly accompanying the riffs, but to their credit, it doesn't always devolve into mere chugging just to support the weight of this added instrumentation. Even where you could accuse the material of that, like the bridge to "A l'insurrection", the lurching palm mute rhythm is at least weird and goes some places you wouldn't expect with the spoken word and graceful atmosphere.

But when the band is blazing forward, as they are much of the 37 minute play length, there is a lot of strength to the guitars, whether they're bursting out into a tremolo picked pattern or a slower, more spacious and emotional pattern. The drumming is intense, the vocals capable of shifting between the genre's patented rasp and more gloomy cleans that are used for both melodic and narrative support. Even more impressive is just the ambition going into this stuff, you listen through a tune like "The Ides of March" or the slowly escalating titular closer and the band is definitely trying to expand its envelope structurally and rhythmically, to the point that it definitely has a more modern gloss to its atavistic principles. De Republica falls into that category of very well-rounded, black metal experiences which take the form seriously and never fuck around with your time. It might not always strike the most memorable riffs or vocal lines you've heard, but it's summarily driven and impressive, and gives the last album a run for its money.

Verdict: Win [8.25/10]

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