In retrospect, Throane’s tantalizing début Derrière-Nous, La Lumière is one of those records whose piercing splinters, given time to gestate, have a tendency to deeply ingrain themselves into thoughts. Almost imperceptible at first, its monochromatic strokes paint uncomfortable rooms of the mind. Rooms filled with anguish and darkness, shaped equally by fears of the void and an existential dread of the mundane. Spaces hidden behind walls upon walls, repressed but always present. The idea of revisiting this world is one that is simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. On his sophomore release as Throane, Plus une main à mordre, the French visual artist and musician Dehn Sora once again claws zealously at these uncomfortable wounds. The approach and motifs of his earlier work are untouched, rooted in nasty (post-)black metal and adorned with an aura of experimental impenetrability, yet somehow intensified. The moods are heavier, the riffs blacker and more abrasive, the drums borderline chaotic, and his inhuman rasps that more desperate.
All of this is laid bare from the first minute of “Aux tirs et aux traits.” It’s a towering song, twice as long and unsettling as any on the previous album, that starts with a sharp and foreboding roar. Throane is synonymous with a discordant and shattering sound that uses sonic lulls as dramatic pauses between downpours of crunching riffs. The riffs here are densely layered and tumultuous, yet inviting and harmonic, completed by Sora’s growls—his vocal chords contorted—floating over an ocean of mesmerizing dark mass. Meanwhile, tempos and rhythms remain elusive, changing and twisting from phrase to phrase. When the track drops into near silence with only a bass line left to strike against the blackness, it relates an unnerving effect, amplifying the chaos that came beforehand and that will follow again soon. As the opener—and blueprint for the record—ends, there is a moment of catharsis during a crust-inspired pinnacle, buried in dissonance and murmurs that mimic throat-singing.
As shorter and longer songs alternate, it becomes clear that it’s the lengthier cuts that are more rewarding, with Sora meshing atmospheres with sludgy attacks and eery tremolo storms. Terser pieces like ”Et ceux en lesquels ils croyaient,” “À trop réclamer les vers,” and “Mille autres” appear almost as fillers, varying too many concepts and ideas in their short spans. The riffs and rhythms, supported by Grégoire Quartier’s solid drumming, continue to be intriguing, but the tunes, despite their musical maximalism, feel hollow and unmemorable. Epic pieces like “Et tout finira par chuter” and the closing “Plus une main à mordre” stand out instead. Relying on suffocating raw black metal passages, unexpected breaks, start-stop sections, and grooves—the songwriting never remains still for too long. “Et tout finira par chuter” is then driven by a palpable, weirdly amorphous bass line and displaced, wailing guitars, only to unwind suddenly, providing some sort of respite.
The title cut “Plus une main à mordre” slowly twists and turns until it builds a thick fog of sounds as an overture to its final third. In it, and after another quiet atmospheric part, Sora unleashes the strongest moments of the record. These are carried by the ethereal, diffused clean vocals of Colin H. van Eeckhout (Amenra), Sylvain Doerler (Incivil Tragedia) and graphic designer Jean-Emmanuel “Valnoir” Simoulin superimposed over a stream of blackgaze, beautiful in its repetitiveness and underscored by undulating tremolos smashing into each other. These last few minutes show how Dehn Sora’s visual art and Throane‘s music can be dynamic and static at the same time, as if he is framing eternal motion frozen in time.
While Derrière-Nous, La Lumière seemed to deal with the solitary finality of human life, Plus une main à mordre is intent on exploring the failing transformations, self-destruction, and, not much unlike Pharmakon, raw fragility of human existence. It’s heavy music intertwined with heavy themes and thus becomes their physical manifestation. Regardless of medium, Dehn Sora’s pallette is recognizable, and this new record shows evolution and exploration.