Written By: Nameless_n00b_09
Belgian black metallers Paragon Impure have been on hiatus for quite some time. Founding member and driving force Noctiz has only managed one full-length release thus far, 2005’s To Gaius! (For the Delivery of Agrippina), with technical and personal setbacks apparently stalling efforts around 2009 to release a follow-up album which was to be titled Fall of Man. That unreleased material has been reworked and incorporated into this—their second full-length in thirteen years—Sade. No, not that Sade, the English singer of “Smooth Operator” fame; Sade as in the Marquis de Sade, that cheeky French noble whose sexuality and writings thereof have been an inspiring, deep, rich vein of perversity for metal artists to plunder ad infinitum.
So how are the results when old material is rehashed with an entirely new—yet classic—theme after more than a decade? Well, it’s a bit mixed, but it’s not as bad as might be expected. The album opens with an intro track that sets up a nice mid-paced atmospheric black metal attack. There’s a sense of airiness and grandeur to the proceedings helped along by a decent amount of echo and reverb in the production to give that “recorded in a crystalline cavern” sound we all know is essential. Noctiz’ vocals are crisp and punchy, and he spits his words and phrases with an almost theatrical curl of the lips that reminds me of Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath or even Vorph from Samael.
Wait though, did he just say “fuck me with a cannon?” It’s difficult to say whether it stems from a band writing lyrics in a language that perhaps isn’t their native tongue, but there’s a childish high-school like quality to the lyrics which is a shame when dealing with a subject as profoundly adult as the Marquis de Sade. Lyrics emerge such as “Rip my nipples from my body, stuff steaming pitch up my ass, pour molten lead on my cock, cut off my tongue with a razor.” Perhaps it’s asking for Paragon Impure to be a little too high-brow, but these juvenile lyrics in combination with the subject matter shift what could be an investigation of dark sexuality into the realm of comedy and immature sniggering.
Musically, riffs sparkle and writhe throughout Sade but never quite seem to match the vocals for effort or intensity. Percussion, while competent, is somewhat subdued in the mix and comes across as slightly muddy sounding. The album showcases mid-to-fast-paced black metal, with even a few genuine head-nodding, almost Satyricon-like black-n-roll moments, particularly in the more free-wheeling final track. However, other unfortunate, irritating flourishes pepper the album, such as the guy moaning in agony/ecstasy for the outro of “Repentance of a Dying Libertine” and a buzzing, grating guitar tone (most noticeable on “Philosophy in the Bedroom”) that I listened to on three different sets of speakers to make sure what I was hearing was on the album and not elsewhere.
There are several moments like this throughout the album where the production choices and treatment given to the instruments is not doing the listenability of the music any favors. Genuine standout moments and riffs are relatively sparse, and although technically proficient, a general inconsistency and overall lack of refinement prevents Sade from being an album you’ll return to time and again. With fresh ideas and renewed energy, Paragon Impure might have some real potential for future endeavors; however, Sade itself probably won’t leave you feeling as punished and violated as the Marquis himself would have preferred.