Earlier this year, our Angry Metal Overlord declared on Twitter that he was “done with atmospheric anything for a long time, but particularly black metal… Everything sounds the same and no one has any ideas.” Now, your good pal Doomy cut his teeth on atmospheric black metal like Wolves in the Throne Room and Agalloch, so this was heresy to my eyeballs. I also felt he was missing the point a bit. Perhaps only funeral doom shares with atmospheric black metal the trait that sometimes riffs don’t matter. It’s all about atmosphere, and what atmo-black lacks in catchiness, it can make up for with great dynamics; interesting juxtapositions of the gentle and brutal; soaring crescendos; and swirling, but beautiful chaos. Some miscreants on our team don’t get it, but atmospheric black metal done right can be compelling and even profound. Some might say spiritual. With debut album, Nocturne, Blosse, a single-man black metal project hailing from Quebec, aims to mine the same sprawling, lo-fi, atmospheric territory occupied by The Ruins of Beverast. Given his statements on social media, is our Angry Lord likely to be impressed? Will this reignite his passion for the unfairly-maligned sub-genre?
Sadly, no. Blosse, the vision of creator Noctis, is simply plagued by too many problems. The biggest of which is the lack of anything particularly catchy throughout its sprawling run time. And by sprawling, I mean just that. Nocturne, with only 4 tracks, clocks in at a whopping 70 minutes. As mentioned before, atmoblack albums don’t live or die by the riff, but to go for well over an hour with very few tangible hooks makes the entire experience as interesting as the décor in a doctor’s waiting room. For comparison, I went back to Two Hunters and Rain Upon the Impure, and those bad boys are just brimming with smart, interesting passages and memorable chords. But there’s something else, too; another thing the really good atmoblack albums get right: pacing and dynamism. Too much of Nocturne just meanders at a similar pitch and pace. When combined with the lack of hooks, and an excessive and bloated length, this spells the death knell for the listener’s interest.
The album also appears to suffer from an identity-crisis. While clearly aiming to exploit the fury and momentum that black metal brings, it also wants to have its ambient cake and eat it. This results in songs like “La Valleé Maudite,” where the mix pushes the drums and vocals right to the back, emphasizing extraneous noises and feedback. While these are partially successful in establishing atmosphere, they ultimately end up robbing Nocturne of any kind of bite. In addition, the ambient passages go on way too long (some over 5 minutes such as in “Destruction”), and these only succeed in jamming the brakes on any momentum that has been created. As a result, the genres being combined, instead of organically enhancing and promoting the album’s sound, neutralize each other.
On the up-side, I actually quite like the lo-fi production, and think it lends a pleasing air of authenticity to the album. Opener “Sous La Lune Moribonde” has some really interesting passages which combine the swirling sound of the wind with dissonant riffs and pounding drums. Those few minutes provide evidence of what Blosse could be if Noctis curbed his appetite for excess and played to his strengths. Sadly, these moments are usually over too quickly, but they’re powerful while they last.
Despite its trve kvlt credentials, Nocturne is, unfortunately, a fairly bland experience. There are no compelling or interesting new ideas here, and certainly nothing that justifies the album’s excessive length. The combination of black metal and ambient tones has been used in the past by other bands to great effect, but it requires discipline, dynamism and innovation. None of which Blosse demonstrates here. Nocturne is exactly the kind of album our site’s creator was railing against on Twitter: too long, with too few ideas and way too much bloat. Guess I’ll have to keep looking for something to change his mind.