Incandescence – Le Coeur de L’Homme Review

To my ears, black metal has always been a uniquely insular form of music. The frantic blast beats, the demonic shrieks, the tremolos… all combine to create an aural experience that is as suffocating as it is claustrophobic. Black metal thrives in the darkness; the enclosed forest; the shadows in the corner. But this insularity can also breed repetition, which is why bands have been mixing black metal with… well… just about everything since the genre’s inception to provide relief from the intensity. Which makes the concept of “epic black metal” something of a contradiction to my mind. Yet that it precisely what Quebec-based black metal band, Incandescence, aims to achieve with their fourth album Le Coeur de L’Homme (The Heart of Man). But is combining inward-looking music with an outward-looking aesthetic a fool’s errand?

Incandescence was formed in 2011 by Philippe Boucher (formerly of First Fragment, now permanent drummer of Beyond Creation) who handles the songwriting and instrumentation. Vocals are performed by Louis-Paul Gauvreau, who took over duties in 2018 from Francis Desrochers. Despite its background in tech-death, Incandescence plays a form of no-frills “deathened black metal” (Totally a thing. I checked with Steel who nodded tersely when I asked him). You won’t find fancy orchestrations or mind-bending saxophones here. This is good ole-fashioned guitars and drums, which are largely successful in creating an absolutely massive scale that serves the whole “epic black metal” tag rather well.

Le Coeur de L’Homme’s greatest success is how enormous in scale it all sounds. When you consider there are no additional instruments to assist, this is all the more impressive. The reason it feels so gargantuan is, primarily, because of an impeccable sense of pacing. But there are also subtle modulatory shifts and choices which reveal themselves on repeat listening. Whether a willingness to embrace major chords (“Tréfonds Macabres”) or wise decisions about when to change the pace (“La Descente”), the songs are constructed for maximum scale and epicness. And you feel it. This is all heightened by Boucher’s virtuoso drumming, with marvelous frills and shifts to complement the incredibly fast blast beats and double-bass. Gauvreau’s vocal chops lend additional scale with cavernous howls and bellows. The overall effect is that the songs, and the album itself, feel vast.

A few missteps stop Le Coeur de L’Homme from being an unqualified success. I’m not a big fan of the production, which over-emphasizes the drums at the expense of many of the melodies. Boucher is an absolute beast on the kit, and the drumming is superb all-around, but the over-emphasis on the drums (particularly the snare) comes at the expense of some of the melodies. This is a pity, because Boucher has some excellent melodic flourishes up his sleeve, which are only picked up when you dive through the drumming. The other issue is that for all its epicness, the album doesn’t quite know how to tie the songs up. We sometimes get lots of build-up without the payoff needed to make it all worthwhile. This is highlighted by the two long closers, “La spirale de l’échec” and “Désacralisation Des Moeurs,” which begin strongly but peter out by the end, sunk somewhat in bland waters.

Le Coeur de L’Homme is graced by yet another gorgeous cover from Adam Burke. While it successfully conveys the scale of the album, there is also a sense that this is not the first time a ship has made this fateful journey. There is also a hint that the really interesting story is yet to come. Incandescence have succeeded in their goal of making something epic, but due to some meandering songwriting and a sub-par mix, this achievement is somewhat diluted. Being epic is cool; but it’s not enough just on its own. With some polish and tightening up, their sound could soon translate to something unforgettable. Until then, this is a journey well worth taking.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore Records
Releases Worldwide: April 15th, 2022


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