I try to be a very fair, objective reviewer. Note the italicized “try” there, because certain bands and styles will have me drooling more than Pavlov’s dog after ringing the goddamn bell. French black metal has that effect on me. Whether it’s the “what’s to the left of left-field?” stylings of Blut Aus Nord, or the angular headfuckery of Deathspell Omega, the French know what’s up when it comes to the black arts. Paris’s The Negation returns with a follow-up to their nihilistic 2013 debut, Paths of Obedience, with Memento Mori, ten tracks of misanthropic joy. So will this be the bell that leaves you a slobbering, loyal mess?
After a brief 15-second whooshing session, A.S.A.’s distorted screams launch “The True Enemy” in crazed, vehement fashion. There is no ambient, melodic fluffery to be had here. This is just a full-on assault on the senses. Kryos will slow down just enough at times to emphasize what little atmosphere there is, but it’s mostly running at three speeds: blast, blaster, and “are you fucking kidding me?” There’s a bit of a slightly atonal guitar solo near the end that throws listeners off guard, but for the most part, this is just unforgiving, unrelenting Orthodox black metal with some interesting death metal touches. Brutal and efficient, just how I likes ’em.
There’s little variety to be had on Memento Mori, and that can be a good thing if performed capably enough. However, as the album saunters on, cracks begin to appear in their Nigh-Impenetrable Misanthropic Plate-Mail of Nihilsm +5. “Sacrifice the Weak” is a strong follow-up, with pinch harmonics and riffing from guitarists Thanatoath and Gelgjer catching your attention, and the awesomely titled “A Prayer for the Ones I Have to Kill” provides a bit of much-needed variety with it’s comparatively crawling tempo. But as we continue through the album, it has the horrible fate of sounding repetitious, creating a feeling of hateful deja-vu. By the time third-to-last track “Visions of Doom” rolls around, I’m begging to check out, as there’s just so much of this you can take, and at 41 minutes, it starts to feel like it’s a bit too stretched out, especially when the intro and outro songs are completely, utterly unnecessary.
Produced at Hybreed Studio (Temple of Baal, Glorior Belli), the mix is squashed as all get-out, though you can still recognize (barely) Agarash’s basslines, but things become a jumbled mess once the guitars go into Tremolo Mode. The thing that bothers me though is the editing of the songs. Folks, there is no need, no need AT ALL, to have a 15-second intro when said intro could be combined with the second song on the track with no ill effect. And I’ve always found myself, after the first time listening to them, skipping both “Résistance” about halfway through, and the outro track entirely.
With all that said, it’s still a very uncompromisingly brutal, misanthropic slab of orthodox black metal. If you like your blackness with a helping heaping of hopelessness and annihilation, Memento Mori isn’t a bad record to check out. It may not leave you salivating for more, but it’s not the worst thing you could listen to. Me? I’ll keep my eye out for their next French offering.