Five years is a long time to go between albums. A lot of time to refine a particular sound is often exactly what bands need to put out their most spectacular releases. On the other hand, expectation is a tricky demon, and it bites both ways. For Angellore, a gothic/doom metal band from France, it’s been five years since the release of La Litanie des Cendres, and, I have to admit, my expectations are a bit high for Rien Ne Devait Mourir, Angellore’s third full-length. The concept behind the band’s sound — combining gothic and doom metal influence — is one that always seems like a good idea on paper, but becomes tricky when you try to really execute it.
With six tracks that go on for a full hour, you might be expecting a complaint about the length of the album, but it isn’t coming. Angellore manage to fill the sixty minutes of Rien Ne Devait Mourir by carefully walking that fine line between gothic metal and doom metal. Each song paints a despairingly beautiful picture for the listener to enjoy. The guitars are never crushing; often, riffs are played as a distant backdrop to tremolos and strings that aim right for the heartstrings. “Dreams (Along the Trail)” is a great example of how much beauty you can fit into five minutes if you try hard enough; the sparse vocals, ringing tremolos, and shimmering flutes take all of the best elements of gothic and doom metal and leave you hungering for more. Opener “A Romance of Thorns” is both twenty minutes long and my favorite song here, dominating a full third of the album with melodies and ideas that are constantly shifting and improving on each other, making it feel much shorter than it is.
One of the best things about Rien Ne Devait Mourir for me is that it doesn’t crush the listener beneath dramatic riffs. Instead, the band’s doom influence exists largely in weeping guitar leads and in Ronnie’s careful, deliberate drumming. Celin’s bass work is similarly subtle, and never used in tandem with Rosarius’s guitars to tower over the listener. Angellore does not drown you with waves; it carries you along on its currents. The only “really” riff-driven song here, “Blood for Lavinia,” discards the doom influence almost completely for a mid-paced gothic rocker, and, while it’s a memorable metal song that makes great use of baritone cleans, it’s not heavy, and this is a production choice as much as a songwriting one. Angellore does not want to make you feel anything; they want to share a touch of despair with you, and the album as a whole is better for it.
The one aspect of Rien Ne Devait Mourir that never quite comes together for me is the vocals. Angellore has three vocalists, at least two of whom perform harsh vocals, with male and female cleans making appearances in nearly every song. And yet, each vocalist sounds limited throughout, like they’re playing things too safe in their delivery. Lucia’s singing sits comfortably in a high range, which, for the most part, serves the music well. The same is true of the baritone cleans, rasps, and growls performed by Rosarius and Walran.1 And yet, throughout the album, there’s very little variance in these performances. It feels like, with three vocalists to call on, Angellore simply opted to switch up the vocalist from time to time instead of adjusting their singing styles as songs demand. The result is that the vocal performances often feel awkward, if only because they aren’t living up to the powerful instrumentation that serves as their backdrop. In the face of such impressive songwriting, this feels like an odd crutch that holds Rien Ne Devait Mourir back a bit.
Still, I don’t want to send the impression that these are bad singers, nor that any part of Rien Ne Devait Mourir is anything less than enjoyable. This album is filling a great spot in my musical library, by bringing me doom that doesn’t crush already-low spirits, and gothic metal that feels genuinely moving. In the bleak wintry haze that is February, Angellore are a distant light on the horizon, comforting just for the mere experience of its existence.
Written By: Doom Et Al
We’ve all been there. Dress-up parties where no one really dresses up. Sure, there’s the odd amusing hat, or quirky tie, but for the most part, everyone is well-behaved and slightly dull. But there’s always that one guy who arrives in a full on wookiee-suit, with a laser blaster and ammo belt, ready to quaff the beer and hit the dance floor. That’s the kind of excess I admire, and it’s the kind of excess I especially admire in my metal. If gothic romantic doom bands are the intellectual, anodyne guests at the metal party, then French band Angellore is the excessive, over the top wookiee tearing shit up. These guys throw absolutely everything at the listener, with all the subtlety of a nosebleed. After a four year hiatus, the band is back with its third album, Rien Ne Devait Mourir. Promising to be even more ambitious and expansive than 2016’s La Litanie des Cendres, the thought did cross my mind: is there a limit to the excess? Or, to put it another way, is this the crazy pal you join on the dance-floor, or the one you quietly escort home after some polite apologies?
Angellore, for the uninitiated, plays an expansive brand of metal that incorporates elements of funeral, classic and gothic doom, and smashes them together with vocals that range from the fragile and ethereal, to the coarse and growling, with some tenor thrown in for good measure. It’s hugely ambitious stuff, and when it works, the results are engaging and entertaining. Opener “A Romance of Thorns” will tell you whether Rien is for you, as it highlights many of the band’s strengths, while exhibiting some of its weaknesses, too. At over 19 minutes long, it’s in absolutely no rush, and the guitars only enter after three minutes of a gentle instrumental opening. The ethereal vocals of Lucia then squeeze their way in, and, much like those of Beth Gibbons from Portishead, they convey beauty and fragility in equal measure. Juxtaposed with the crushing guitars, the sound is both bruising yet intimate. The growled vocals that follow are far less convincing, however, sounding strained and forced. This awkward shift is emblematic of some of the flaws that plague Rien.
The other issue is that with so many elements all jostling together, none ever receives the prominence it deserves to really stand out. When you consider that the album is over an hour long, this becomes doubly frustrating. You know those mix tapes that combine short segments of different songs to form a longer song? Know how it’s frustrating when you hit upon a cool segment, only to have it change just as it’s getting good? That feeling pervades Rien. An awesome riff will establish momentum, only to be stopped in its tracks by a slower tempo and some pointless growling (“Drowned Divine” is frequently guilty of this). When the band sticks to one idea, as in the excellent “Sur les Sentiers de Lune,” – which evokes memories of Woods of Ypres, complete with David Gold-esque vocals – you really get a feeling for what Angellore is capable of.
The production for Rien is fine, but the copy I was sent was weirdly soft. Perhaps my ears are still recovering from the merciless assault of Vengeful Spectre’s obscenely loud mix, but even at full volume, I struggled to make out some of the melodies. Bringing the vocals to the front works great for the soprano and tenor vocals, but just makes the aforementioned growls seem even sillier.
There is much to admire about the excessive ‘more is more’ approach to Angellore’s music. For better or worse, Rien Ne Devair Mourir is a perfect distillation of what the band is aiming for. It is all the metal, and all the styles, thrown at you with no apology. This is not the sound of musicians playing it safe, or holding anything back. I love this attitude. Unfortunately, the quality of what comes your way does not always match the enthusiasm with which it’s sent. Only half the album really works, and it’s when the band shows some restraint or sticks to one idea that Rien really shines. It’s like your pal in the wookiee suit: you can admire his bravery and enthusiasm, but wish he spent less time on the costume, and more on his dance skills.