Paydretz – Chroniques de l’Insurrection Review

If there’s something that black metal bands have been flocking to lately, besides corpse paint and hooded sweatshirts, it’s war. Over the last decade, the genre’s been scouring both World Wars to the point of picking at scraps. Scant few, if any, even bothered to turn their eyes to battles of centuries past, especially when it comes to the French Revolution or, more specifically, the War in the Vendée. A counter-revolution that lasted approximately three years and resulted in the slaughter of countless men, women, and children, the War in the Vendée remains an oft-overlooked bloodbath, save for the occasional historical film or two. Today, French supergroup Paydretz, consisting of members of CruachanGrylle, Batards du Nord, and Himinbjorg (among many, many others) brings this historic tale to light on their debut, Chroniques de l’Insurrection.

Given the weight of the subject matter, Paydretz handled the material with the utmost care and attention. The lyrics are entirely in French, but despite my lack of knowledge of both the War and the French language itself, you can sense the passion in tracks such as “Le Tocsin Nous Appelle,” with Geoffroy Dell’Aria growling venomously over flutes and percussion, or the absolutely heart-swelling ending to “Le Serment Des Chefs.” If there was a musical thread to tie everything together, it would closely resemble a French Chthonic around the Seediq Bale era. Seeing as that’s my favorite album by Chthonic, that’s not a bad thing to be compared to, especially given the strength of the material on the album’s first half.

As the album progresses, though, cracks begin to show. Once sixth track (and album highlight) “Sous la Bannière  Blanche” wraps up, Chroniques begins to feel fatiguing due to both a drop in energy as well as a lack of variety in its execution. While multi-instrumentalist Sven Vinat enjoys deploying double-bass on his drum work, opening almost every metal track on here with that double-bass at almost the same tempo stifles a bit of the creativity, despite his guitar and bass playing being incredible. Also, towards the end of the album, there are not one, but two tracks that are spoken word passages, and they bookend “La Fin du Rêve,” the album’s second-longest song that honestly doesn’t need to be that long or that uneventful compared to the stronger first half of Chroniques.

While we’re on that note, Chroniques de l’Insurrection possesses a ton of bloat at 68 minutes, with many of the songs going well north of six minutes. The longer songs, such as “Les Cantique Des Moulins” and the aforementioned “La Fin du Rêve,” could shave off a couple of minutes each and leave a stronger imprint. In fact, I was craving some of the folkier side of Paydretz, as exhibited on opener “Premier Sang (1793)” and the downtrodden “Les Bleus Sont Là,” as those tracks help build the story and atmosphere Paydretz is telling in spades. When they incorporate the flutes and hurdy-gurdy, it makes you feel like you’re there in the thick of battle.

Despite the flaws, however, the highs on Chroniques de l’Insurrection are stratospheric, and I’m interested to see where Paydretz goes on their next outing, or what tales from their country’s battles will they explore. When they nail it, Paydretz crafts a compelling look at one of their nation’s bloodiest, most tragic battles. With some self-editing and variety, I see good things heading their way. As it stands, Chroniques de l’Insurrection contains enough great stuff to give them a look. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with learning something new.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Antiq Records
Releases Worldwide: October 8th, 2021

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