Pensees Nocturnes - Grotesque
Les Acteurs de L'Ombre
Black Metal
8 songs (54:04)
Release year: 2010
Official Myspace, Les Acteurs de L'Ombre
Reviewed by Charles
How nice to hear again from Vaerohn’s Pensées Nocturnes; the project responsible for one of last year’s most pleasant black metal surprises in Vacuum. That record took a unique approach to its art, soaking its deathly, gasping metal in classical instrumentation. But instead of the romantic, and virtuosic, piano flourishes that so preoccupy the comparable Mystic Forest, Vacuum embraced the creaking, antiquated stylings of the chamber string ensemble to great effect (whilst being similarly fond of Chopin, of course). Add to this a surprising appreciation of sleazy, smoky saloon blues music, and the overall effect was a disorientating and imposing trip through a very dark musical mind.

Vulgum Pecis introduces this with the pomp and ceremony that speaks of a musician that feels he has honed his craft and is ready to attack something more ambitious. The creepy, seeping orchestral sounds that characterised Vacuum have here grown into a deafening rumpus that builds into a flamboyant, dramatic climax replete with wailing choral “ooohs” and even the sound of riotous canned applause. A sure sign of self-assuredness if ever there was one. As the latter is drowned out by an alarming, in fact terrifying, buildup of screaming string sounds that preludes Paria, the sheer unselfconscious drama of it gives you a very attractive notion; has black metal found its Dario Argento?

Perhaps... Every moment of this is soaked in gothic melodrama, which means that whilst it's recognisably the same band (those wince-inducing vocals still give this a tortured sound) it just sounds "bigger" than previously. The black metal sound has been beefed up considerably, which gives the album more sheen and more power, and means Pensées Nocturnes is able to attempt big, dramatic crescendos that it wasn’t before. Take Monosis, one of several eight minutes-plus tracks here. Starting with some curious country and western twanging and augmented at various points by elements such as a harpsichord and muted trumpet, the key opening gesture of this tune is a slow, lumbering metal stomp with crashing drum rolls ghost-train clean vocal harmonies. It sounds like a zombie mardi gras. Then it all breaks down, and you’re reminded how very French this project is by a cheery accordion waltz, alone at first, but progressively defiled by discordant electric guitar squealing and sporadic spasms of tremolo black metal ejaculate. It’s complete musical chaos, compiled with a real sense of anarchy. Or listen to Thokk, which paces itself, switching between funereal strings and black metal tremolo effectively enough to make these two things sound like the most natural musical bedfellows.

This is a big step forward for Pensées Nocturnes, and one that could establish the project at the forefront of Europe’s black metal scene. One thing that concerns me is the band’s limitations as a one-man project. The achievement here of drawing so many ideas and influences onto Grotesque is a great one, but ironically it makes you wonder- more so than you ever did listening to Vacuum- where the potential for expansion is. Listening to Belus, the fact that it was made by one person alone is obvious. That is never the case here. Nonetheless, less synths and more “real” instruments could see something really special being produced, so I wonder if this being a solo project produces self-imposed limits. If so it's a shame, because Grotesque reveals a musician with the potential to smash those into a thousand pieces. Rather than a cultish work of black metal dourness like Vacuum, Grotesque embraces chaos and unpredictability, and have developed the playing and writing skills to pull it off. Really impressive album.

Killing Songs :
Monosis, Thokk, Eros
Charles quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Pensees Nocturnes that we have reviewed:
Pensees Nocturnes - Grand Guignol Orchestra reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Pensees Nocturnes - Nom d'une Pipe! reviewed by Charles and quoted 83 / 100
Pensees Nocturnes - Vacuum reviewed by Charles and quoted 84 / 100
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