Forteresse - Themes pour la RebellionI’m largely done with black metal as it was in Norway in 1993. That raw, lo-fi, stripped-back approach to black metal had its place and developed metal in so many ways but it’s definitely had its time. Bands such as Ulver, Emperor and Enslaved were already beginning to move the sound into unprecedented regions in the mid-late 90s. Now in 2016 it’s rare that I listen to that sort of no frills attached, no genre cross-over, nothing added to that furious, godless formula. And yet there are bands which pull me back in without doing anything outside that established blueprint: Taake; Mgła; this year’s Wode. I may have found another contender. Quebec’s Forteresse takes this style and transposes it on to their history of strife over independence – primarily concerning the Lower Canada Rebellion. While not flawless, Thèmes pour la Rébellion is a strong album and an adrenaline shot into a scene too preoccupied with atmosphere and protraction.

A feeling of war is immediately established by the short intro, featuring battle cries and the unmistakable sounds of muskets. The opening to “Spectre de la Rébellion” then slams into you, backing this war-like promise with aggression and vitriol. The riffs are scything and cold but there’s a chunkiness to their sound, facilitated through a reasonably bassy mix compared with that which is typical. These riffs are trilling and harsh but there’s an undeniable melody sitting atop the wall. Indeed, the vocals have a savage tone to them, elevated beyond the high-pitched shrieks often used. Forteresse are resolute in their abandonment of frills but there’s no denying the strength of their meaty sound and riffing. “Vespérales” may be the best track on offer, opening with an explosive scream and emphasizing its awesome guitar interplay. We’ve already had all the metal of this type that we could ever need but it’s tough to argue that this isn’t a great example of it.

Best of all, Forteresse acknowledges and embraces that black metal first thrived off intensity (to paraphrase AMG). 10 minutes of the same tremolo-picked passage to establish ‘atmosphere’ isn’t cool and they understand this. Their heaviness, relative brevity of tracks and sharp, 40-minute length contrive to ensure the material doesn’t lose its teeth. The very occasional spoken word or choral element, such as those on “Là où Nous Allons” and “Par la Bouche de mes Canons,” are deployed judiciously and do just enough to offer slight variety without undermining any brutal credibility. They’re appreciable but not dominating in the mix.

Forteresse 2016If I have a criticism it’s that Thèmes is highly one-note. It’s a very well-executed note but 37 minutes of blasting fury is a touch too much for me without reprieve. The conclusion is a thoughtful, atmospheric slow-burner with resonant chords and natural effects which I think would have functioned better in the middle of the record, thus offering such a breather. I advocate interludes since ferociousness starts to look lesser when it’s all that’s on display – such interludes highlight the aggression and encourage appreciation of that which comes immediately before and after. As such, I think the pacing could be improved.

If you’re remotely interested in black metal, Thèmes is well-worth your time. It certainly helps that the record is reasonably dynamic and is produced to confer a cavernous sound on the guitars. After an admittedly short listen to the rest of Forteresse‘s discography, this is the most immediate of their releases and that which I prefer. Though it loses out for pacing and originality, the strength of the riffs carries Thèmes on to a fairly short list of my favorite black metal releases of 2016 so far.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sepulchral Productions
Releases Worldwide: June 24th, 2016

Tagged with →  
Share →
  • El C I can not agree with you more. I just got bored midway through simply for the fact that the first three tracks sound like the rest. They need to spice things up a bit. Production though is top notch.

    • El_Cuervo

      I’d not go as far as to say I was bored but it loses some of its impact, yeah.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Wode’s release is too damn good.

    On paper, this seems to be a blacker Vredehammer. I love brief, one-trick pony albums, because they make for mighty playlists. Looking forward to giving this a spin!

  • pfk505

    Fantastic album. Forteresse are the quintessential Metal Noir Quebecois, this is their best album for sure and one of the best from that scene, perhaps ever. The kind of album that demands to be played as loud as possible, it doesn’t let up for a second.

    • Col_Dax

      I’m with you in cherishing this Forteresse release – will definitely a buy-on-release!
      I have to object the “best album from that scene thing”. This honour should go to Gris’ “À l’âme enflammée, l’âme constellée…”, be it alone for its sheer gigantic gestus. Albeit from that scene, they sound quite different in a progressive way than comrades like Forteresse, Csejthe or Monarque. It’s the only MNQ album I regurlarly come back to…

      • Iliast

        While they aren’t a part of that ‘scene’ in the same way, in terms of geographical proximity, Menace Ruine deserve serious kudos for their quite avant-garde approach to black metal.

        • Col_Dax

          Huh, didn’t know them at all, but will check out for sure. Thanx!

      • pfk505

        “one of the best”.. and really? I found that album to be interminably boring and a real disappointment overall. It couldn’t remotely compare to their great second album.

        Of the Quebec bands Akitsa is actually my favourite, though I concede they are quite different from the others. Forteresse, Brume D’Automne, Chasse-Galerie, Monarque and Csejthe are also up there.

  • Iliast

    I would put Sanctuaire and Sorcier des Glaces up there with Forteresse as my favourite métal noir québécois.

    • Anarchist

      I remember listening to another québécois black metal band that was really good. I think it was… Gris?

    • And don’t forget Sombres Forêts. (I could throw in Csejthe too, but I haven’t listened as much as I should to them.)

  • Alexandre Barata

    Now this is Black Metal for people who like fast, raw music. So much more interesting than Dark Funeral :) The drums have that “played either in a cave or a bathroom” sounding that I so love, lead guitar is repetitive but very good, and the production is top notch!!!

    • pfk505

      The drumming on this album is incredibly good, and I agree I love the sound. Definitely a deliberate effect.

  • Wilhelm

    Sounds like a forgotten 90’s classic – I love the strong sense of melody overlaying the brutality and blast beats – passionate engaging stuff.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    And for some weird reason this review links to Pro-Pain… (Well, not so weird, both albums have the word “rebellion” on their titles)

  • lennymccall

    This is good stuff!

  • metalhead

    damn looking at these comments made me realize there is a serious bm scene in my province of Canada… the more u know I guess XD will check out all the bands listed in those comments

  • i know they’re probably too trve and grim for digital distribution but this is two thousand fucking sixteen years after the birth of JC and it just irritates the fuck out of me.