Belenos - L'Ancien Temps
Northern Silence Productions
Black Metal
Disc 1: 10 songs (1:02:37) Disc 2: 10 songs (1:03:32)
Release year: 2013
Northern Silence
Reviewed by Goat

A re-release of an out-of-press re-release, this collection of early material from French Celtic warriors Belenos is even more underrated than the already underrated band that produced it! For the first time featuring the 1998 demo Allégorie d'une Souffrance it's pretty obvious that this collection will be of most appeal to existing fans of the band, although newcomers will find much to enjoy. For one, this has quite a clear and pronounced production that you don't normally find in black metal, especially not of demo-era material! It's also very melodic, with a melancholic air, prone to frequent shifts in tempo that don't spoil the hypnotic quality. Loïc Cellier's shrieks are haunting yet don't overwhelm the guitars, shimmering walls of sound that aren't afraid of pauses for melodic plucked interludes. Tending towards slow and majestic rather than fast and raging (although quite capable of the latter) Belenos' form of black metal has always had an artistic, highbrow quality to it without compromising on the icy black metal heritage, and L'Ancien Temps showcases this even in the early days of the band.

Clearly there's much material here, and much of it is of a similar style, good yet hardly warranting being discussed in detail. As an overview, then, and looking at the CDs in turn, the first CD collects the oldest material (the 1996 Notre Amour Éternel demo) with some bonus tracks. Fans of the band will be interested to note that the material is presented here out of order than it did on the original demo - for example, the first CD opens with Le Déluge, the fifth track originally. (It doesn't prevent it being effective, of course, but it has to be noted.) Songs will and do blur together, there being little practical difference between tracks, barring the odd keyboard interlude (never tinny or out-of-place) or choral flourish; yet there is a distinction, and the ease in which tracks can sweep you into a reverie will appeal to any black metal fan. In particular, fans of Eastern European black metal will love the guitars here, shining brightly rather than pulled into the murk as in most black metal of the era. Of course, being demo-era songs you'll certain to find faults, yet there's relatively minor here, my biggest gipe being that some of the tempo shifts can be a bit jarring - Etrange Douceur deserves a mention here, although the melodic lead guitar and effectiveness of the faster section more than forgive it. The eight-minute Visages De La Solitude is a personal highlight, allowed breathing space showing that the band are really capable of seizing and holding your attention even over longer tracks, while Adorable Mépris explores more of the melodic side of the band's sound. The bonus tracks here, a live version of Le Déluge from 2010 and studio rehearsals of two other songs, showcase the material in a different light, still raw and unrefined, but withstanding pressure.

The second CD features two demos, 1998's aforementioned Allégorie d'une Souffrance and 1999's Triste Pensée. The material has a lot more of the pagan influences which are audible nowadays, yet is still very obviously black metal as Dernière Rencontre alone proves. From then on, however, it's a bit of a mixed bag, the band really struggling to gather their influences into a cohesive whole. Mélancolie lives up to its name, complete with sampled noises of horses and what seems to be a blacksmiths, the stop-start Pensées follows with frequent piano and male choirs, then Tristesse opens with female spoken word and Sacrilege with what sounds like sampled people dying... it's quite a mixture, yet the black metal which underpins it all is absolutely solid. Coming into its own on the hypnotic Lassitude - Outro, the band glimpsed here are just beginning to reveal their capabilities... The last few songs on this CD are the most up-to-date, bringing the mini-adventure that is the entire collection to a close, showing the band's evolution just as a good demo collection should. Belenos have a knack for the grandiose already notable, and this collection of two hours of their excellent early material is definitely worthy of your ears.

Killing Songs :
Le Déluge, Rêveries, Visages De La Solitude, Adorable Mépris, Dernière Rencontre, Oraison Funèbre
Goat quoted no quote
Other albums by Belenos that we have reviewed:
Belenos - Yen Sonn Gardis reviewed by Vrechek and quoted 81 / 100
Belenos - Chemins de Souffrance reviewed by Alex and quoted 83 / 100
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