Pensees Nocturnes - Grand Guignol Orchestra
Les Acteurs de L'Ombre
10 songs (47:41)
Release year: 2019
Official Bandcamp, Les Acteurs de L'Ombre
Reviewed by Goat

"A darkly entertaining freakshow" is how Charles described the last-but-one album from French oddball Vaerohn, and he's taken his Pensées Nocturnes ('Nocturnal Thoughts' and not 'Night Penises' as I definitely haven't thought it was since first hearing of this band) project in an even more blatantly mad direction. Yep, he's gone full clown, completely taken us to the circus, and although this comes over initially as something to run away screaming from, once you've gotten used to the concept there's a fair amount of weird fun to be had here, although long-term fans may prefer earlier albums. Something like a mixture of (old) Peste Noire and Mr Bungle, Grand Guignol Orchestra certainly lives up to its name, first track proper Deux Bals dans la Tete ('two balls on the head') a demented, almost klezmer-backed jazzy dance with increasingly freaked-out screeches atop. The black metal elements are sort of there in occasional blastbeats and some backing guitars, but it's far from obvious, and you won't even be thinking of it by the time you've reached the insane Poil de Lune ('moon hair'), clean-sung and piano-backed, like you've suddenly wandered into a hellish French pub that's suddenly caught fire partway through amateur folk night.

Yet despite the lack of overt black metal, this is clearly still a very dark album. Clowns have been a mainstay of horror for a long time, and the music here would be disturbing even without Vaerohn's insane crooning and shrieking. Tracks like L'Alpha Mal have a sickening, dreamlike feel to them, an overriding sense of wrongness apparent throughout the album, and moments like the random passage of spoken French in Les Valseuses ('the waltzers', I think) add to the confusion as much as the funky keyboards in the same track. There's some fantastic musicianship apparent, the opening to Gauloises ou Gitanes as technical as if it were a jazz fusion group, the track having a Latin flavour as it progresses - think a much darker The Mars Volta. Yet it is a difficult album to listen to, the jazz and other non-metal elements meaning it's easier to let it wash over you rather than trying to focus on a single riff or hook, which are all but lacking anyway making differences between songs hard to notice. Aside from moments like the doomy opening to Anis Maudit, a lot of this feels very samey (the language barrier definitely doesn't help) and while the circus theme is dominant, it can seem a little like the band repeating the same goofy trick again and again rather than developing on it. Recommending this, then, is difficult unless you have a passion for Pennywise or simply a taste for the mad, but in small doses this freakshow can indeed be darkly entertaining.

Killing Songs :
Poil de Lune, Les Valseuses, Gauloises ou Gitanes
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Pensees Nocturnes that we have reviewed:
Pensees Nocturnes - Douce Fange reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Pensees Nocturnes - Nom d'une Pipe! reviewed by Charles and quoted 83 / 100
Pensees Nocturnes - Grotesque reviewed by Charles and quoted 88 / 100
Pensees Nocturnes - Vacuum reviewed by Charles and quoted 84 / 100
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