Serment – Chante, Ô Flamme de la Liberté Review

Some black metal bands are sheer aggression and violence, while others are all about slow-build atmosphere and ambience. Lurking around the fringes, just outside these respective circles of firelight, are the folk black metal bands, crooked harps and battered lutes clutched in their claws. By far the most interesting – to me at least – are the black metal acts that dip their bucket in multiple wells, and we have one such specimen on our hands today. Quebec’s Serment is the one-man side project from Forteresse’s guitarist and bassist, Moribond. When we reviewed Forteresse’s most recent full-length, Thèmes pour la Rébellion, back in 2016, the notoriously hard-to-please El Cuervo awarded it a very respectable 3.5, while complaining that it was “highly one-note,” all blasting fury, without reprieve. Has going it alone softened Moribond’s edges at all?

Serment certainly does not abandon the vicious intensity of Forteresse. Across its 40 minutes, Chante, Ô Flamme de la Liberté carries more than enough blastbeat fury and icy, lightning-quick riffs to satisfy fans of Moribond’s day job. The savagery of the opening double bill (after the “Ouverture” intro) of “Sonne, le Glas Funèbre” and “Par-Delà Collines et Rivières” barely allows space to breath, despite the melodic edge to both tracks. The reprieve offered by the howling wind and crackling fire atmospherics that join the end of “Par-Delà Collines et Rivières” to the almost-symphonic beginning of highlight “Flamme Hivernale” is brief, however. Less than a minute in, a gothic, stomping drumbeat opens up to guide you mercilessly into the next black metal assault.

The most obvious influences on Serment, apart from its creator’s work with Forteresse, are the likes of Transylvanian Hunger-era Darkthrone and Emperor in their In the Nightside Eclipse pomp. Although I suggested above that Serment had a folk element to their sound, that’s not strictly true. In fact, it’s downright false. There are no lyres or lutes here but the epic grandeur and mournfulness of the melody that seems to track through Chante, Ô Flamme de la Liberté, beginning on intro “Ouverture” (just after the owl) and slithering its way across the entirety of the album, gives the record that Ye Olde feel, which my brain associates with folk BM. From the haunting descant soaring over the latter stages of “Sonne, le Glas Funèbre” and highlight “Flamme Hivernale” to the majestic atmospherics of percussion-free closer “Hymne à la Patrie,” the record seems to exude ‘folk’ black without actually incorporating any of its constituent parts.

Throughout Chante, Ô Flamme de la Liberté, Moribond gives an assured vocal performance, majoring in a harsh, tortured black metal rasp, which borders on DSBM screams, occasionally detouring into a shouted, not-quite-clean that Quorthon would be proud of. The drums – which Moribond originally manned for Forteresse before he moved onto four and six strings – are a particular highlight of this album for me, with a clean sound and churning energy that forms the backbone of Chante. The riffs are no slouches either, sporting a guitar tone perfectly suited to the album’s theme, a literal Faustian pact and ensuing quest to the dark heart of Québec’s snow-bound forests. The raw edge to Serment’s sound fits with the Bathory-esque atmospherics that are conjured through the wind, fire and owl(!) effects on show.

Without shedding any of the raw force, Chante, Ô Flamme de la Liberté offers a more nuanced and atmospheric journey than Forteresse. Serment’s melodic edge and taste for symphonic grandeur kept me coming back to this record, which I enjoyed more with every listen. While it perhaps lacks that killer something that would nudge it up into the hallowed 4.0 territory, it is a stellar debut for Moribond’s solo work and I very much hope to hear more from Serment.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sepulchral Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 24th, 2020

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