Hanternoz – Au Fleuve de Loire Review

It has been thirteen years since Hyvermor, the Lord and Master of Antiq Records, has graced us with a full-length release from his oldest band and original solo project Hanternoz. Other projects, among them Braquemaard, Ê, Grylle, and Véhémence, have kept him busy, it seems (also, I’m guessing running a label takes up some of your time), but I was really excited to see that he’s returned to his roots, teaming up with Sparda (Créatures) (backing vocals, bass, hurdy-gurdy) to deliver an hour of his signature black metal style on Au Fleuve de Loire, complete with all the folky fixings you could ask for. I didn’t love Metal kozh, but the recent Véhémence album blew me away, and it’s impossible to deny Hyvermor’s vision or talent. How does Au Fleuve de Loire stack up?

Well. It stacks up well. But Au Fleuve de Loire is a strange beast, and calling it black metal with folky fixings doesn’t tell the whole story at all. Among the folk instrumentation are bagpipes and flutes, among the album lineup, two guitarists (Hyvermor and Stefan Traunmüller of The Negative Bias, credited as a session guitarist), and everything gets its place to shine. The album is produced not to be heavy, immediate, hard-hitting, or any of the usual adjectives one associates with black metal, but with a lighter, clearer touch. In this way, it reminds me of Panegyrist’s Hierurgy, another album of black metal that doesn’t quite sound like black metal. And yet that doesn’t feel fully fair either — “Vieille Nasse Crevée” furiously roars to life with melodic tremolo riffing, but I bet no one sees the synthesizer coming a minute in,1 building a brooding, creeping atmosphere and a slow build back up to more black metal tones before abandoning metal altogether for a minute in a fun, folky interlude.

Suffice it to say, with Au Fleuve de Loire, Hanternoz has created an utterly unpredictable album. Even after repeated listens, I find myself pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of twists and turns the thing puts the listener through without ever losing focus on its core principles. “À Cul de Grève” is perhaps the most straightforward song on the album, leaning on a galloping melody of tremolo riffs and its clean vocal chorus, and even in that case, I was thrown off initially by the choral vocals towards the end of the song. “Ce Que le Fleuve a Pris,” on the other hand, shifts its skin every few minutes, utilizing traditional, folky instrumentation initially before morphing into a clean-style black metal chorus and an upbeat post-chorus and a strangely somber guitar solo. Like an excitable puppy, Au Fleuve be Loire refuses to stay in one place for long, and while it feels a bit cobbled together at times, it manages to stay interesting for the full hour it runs.

And it’s a good thing too, because this is an album of seven songs averaging around ten minutes each and, as I mentioned earlier, it lacks immediacy, feeling just as much like a work of progressive metal as black metal. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and certainly gives the album a unique sound. The bass, for one thing, is always audible. Ordinarily I expect bass in black metal to be rumbling along with whatever the guitars are doing, but here it picks its moments and does its own thing. Hyvermor’s vocal style is also an entity unto itself, his ugly rasps, snarls, and growls sounding distinctly unhinged by contrast to the melodic instrumentation. The whole of Au Fleuve de Loire has a feeling of being stitched together, piece by piece, and not fully mixed together — it has a sort of DIY feel to it, which is entirely unexpected and definitely intentional. This makes Au Fleuve de Loire surprisingly difficult to categorize.

And indeed, this album has left my head spinning, forcing me to ask such questions as “what exactly is black metal?” and “How much idea is too much idea?” I’ve spent most of this review trying to understand the album, explain it, sort it into words and phrases that make sense. So lest my opinions be lost in the sea of this most interesting album, let me be clear — I like my black metal different. I love Hanternoz for their unpredictability. And Au Fleuve de Loire is a very good album, enjoyable from start to finish.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Antiq Records
Websites: hanternoz.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/pages/hanternoz-pagan-de-bretagne
Releases Worldwide: May 3rd, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Spoiler alert! – Holdeneye
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