The French metal scene has been growing and more interesting in the past few years than I can ever remember. While the following review will be of Moonreich‘s Loi Martiale (Martial Law), it is important to say that in general I’ve been really impressed with the quality of all the metal I’ve been hearing out of France for a while now. Bands like Sebka-Chott, Kalisia and Gorod all stand out as being excellent examples of a metal scene in full bloom right now, full of new thoughts and ideas. Hell, even French black metal is forward thinking and innovative these days if you look at Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, and black metal hasn’t been innovative as a scene goes since the early 1990s. So you can say that I entered into this one with some high expectations.
Unfortunately, as these things go, when you enter with some expectations you get disappointed. This is not to say that Moonreich isn’t good, just Loi Martiale isn’t exactly the most forward-looking black metal I’ve ever listened to. Instead, it’s really quite reminiscent of the late-90s black metal that was coming out of Scandinavia. Fairly melodic, with a tendency to fall into blasting and some light keyboards and orchestration, Loi Martiale is a well-paced record that is littered with interesting ideas. In fact, much of it really reminds me of Nattestid vid porten by Taake in riffing styles, vocals and atmosphere.
What makes the record good are the melodies that are often carried on the trem-picked guitars. After listening to the album for several days I found that I had a riff from “En Mon Ame et Conscience” stuck in my head for about a day afterwords while trying to do other things. And what the band lacks in novelty, they make up in composition with songs that encompass the best of what black metal has traditionally had to offer. The aforementioned track “En Mon Ame et Conscience” is a great example, but there are plenty of others. “Le Regard du Pendu” certainly starts off with excellent melodies that has almost a Shining feel to it, and another track that stands out for me is the title track “Loi Martiale,” whose main riff and variation are excellent and memorable.
All of that said, this record is a bit of a slow grower. I’m not sure how it will sit with me at the end of the year or how I’ll feel about it after that. While there are some very excellent tracks, there are other parts that are just pretty unmemorable. Basically, if you’re a fan of black metal, you’ve definitely heard similar material before. While well done, Moonreich aren’t breaking open any new doors or switching the gears of the scene. In fact, in this day and age of depressive black metal and its ilk, Moonreich seems almost anachronistic. But even the anachronistic can be sticky as hell sometimes and so long as I’ve got a Moonreich riff in my head, I have a hard time just writing this material off.