The French-Canadian province of Quebec has a rich black metal scene, and Canadian black metal label Sepulchral Productions has strung together a real gem in the form of Légendes, a four-way split EP of proud Québécois darkness. In keeping with each group’s dedication to Québécois cultural and national identity, the split unites some of the scene’s more well-known groups – Forteresse, Chasse-Galerie, Monarque and Csejthe – to explore Quebec’s folklore.
Légendes’ first half sets a proud, patriotic tone with punchier cuts from Forteresse and Chasse-Galerie. The former’s “Wendigo” in particular sets the bar almost a little bit too high – named after so-named cannibalistic demon of Native American folklore, Forteresse offer a fantastic cut that’s unrelentingly raw and triumphant. If these famously patriotic French-Canadians ever succeeded in making a case for Quebecan supremacy, it’s through the infectious reverb-drenched tremolo hooks that make “Wendingo” perhaps the most forceful track of their discography. It’s almost too momentous for the split’s own good – when Chasse-Galerie’s nearly waltz-like “Le Bois de Belles” follows, the frostbitten tension feels almost deflating. Not to worry, though; this similarly patriotic four-piece offers a stately track that recalls the regal grandeur of Drudkh and Wolfheart-era Moonspell, ending the split’s first half on a celebratory note, even if it doesn’t quite scale Forteresse’s mighty heights.
In stark contrast with the relatively upbeat and celebratory nature of the these songs, the second half exudes a darker side to the Quebecan landscape than the nationalistic fervor of the previous two. Monarque provides the rawest offering, appropriately titled “La Griffe du Diable,” or “The Devil’s Claw,” and Csejthe pick up right where Monarque leave off, closing the split with the similarly despondent “Murmures Nocturnes.” The former is a frostbitten dirge of the harshest, blackest kind, and the latter complements its frigid bite with melodic lead guitar and austere string synths, ending things on a climactic note.
Légendes manages to be a successful record not only because of the strength of the songwriting and its concise length, but because of its unity in message. Split albums often feel like two or more individual EPs that happen to share the same album cover, but Légendes succeeds by sounding truly collaborative in its usage of raw black metal to explore Quebecan national and cultural identity, even if it’s not immediately clear to someone outside that culture what specific regional myths are being addressed, or how (on-line translators being as crude as they are).
Moreover, none of these bands try to work outside the trve black metal clubhouse, which will make Légendes unappealing to those with a low tolerance for all things cvlt, but these four tunes will serve as a fine addition to the respective catalogs of these most grim Quebecers and will be more than satisfying for black metal fans interested in diving into this unique regional spin on the black metal sound.