Véhémence – Ordalies Review

When last Véhémence appeared around these parts, they were an unexpected discovery I made—with some much-appreciated help—at the end of 2019. Par le sang versé was a gem of a release, with all the right black metal bits, just enough folk bits, and an awesome medieval vibe that set it apart from its contemporaries. So you can imagine my thrill when I learned that the French group had actually read that article and that I’d get to review their third full-length release, Ordalies. Still, it can be tough when a band wants you specifically to review their album, because, well, what if it’s bad? Fortunately, I won’t be required to figure that particular conundrum out this time, because my goodness, Véhémence have done it again.

When I say they’ve “done it,” I of course mean they’ve crafted a seriously strong black metal album adorned with their signature “medieval” atmosphere. As soon as that acoustic guitar simmers to life atop the a crackling campfire in “De Feu at d’Acier,” it’s clear that Véhémence haven’t missed a step, and when the metal begins in earnest, it’s a perfectly natural progression, manifesting like a punch to the face. The atmosphere is one of adventure; Tulzcha’s tremolos, bass, and keys build backdrops of galloping rhythm propelled by Thomas Leitner’s drumming, which is consistently worth paying attention to. And, of course, Hyvermor provides his signature and much-improved vocal performance, snarling, rasping, and singing too, his gruff choral tones giving off an altogether friendly vibe that adds further dimensions to the music. Together, Véhémence on Ordalies sounds like nothing less than storytellers, drawing you into their world. You came here for the metal, but it’s the flutes, psaltery, and acoustic moments really draw your attention.

None of which is to say, naturally, that the metal moments aren’t strong themselves. “La Divine Sorcellerie” opens with a mellow guitar lead before transitioning into a catchy, driving rhythm that lets Véhémence flex their muscles in a much more “straightforward metal” kind of way. “Au Blason Brûlé” is one of the darker tracks to the album, a nine-minute journey through shadowy riffs and more vicious rasps. Even here though, Véhémence is happy to make room for a gorgeous psaltery-and-strings interlude towards the end, preceding a burst of speed and momentum to make the weariest metalhead nod their head at the unreasonable pace set by the drums. There is a ton of variety to Ordalies, but it never sacrifices its heavy feel; this is unmistakably a black metal record. Still, the absolute best of the album comes right in at the close: “Par le Glaive” brings all of it together, the melancholy strings, a mournful lead, a killer lead riff, and a true sense of adventure, showing that every facet of the Véhémence sound contributes to the album’s success.

By placing the strongest songs at the beginning and end of Ordalies, Véhémence are able to partially sidestep its strongest potential issue, namely that the album clocks in at a full hour. The only tracks shorter than seven minutes long are interludes, which means that most of the hour is dominated by six songs. Thankfully, the album is structured well, with the aforementioned interlude tracks appearing every two songs in the journey to offer pleasant rests for the ears. Still, it’s hard not to feel that a song like “Notre Royaume… En Cendres” might leave a more lasting impression if it was eight or nine minutes, rather than eleven. As is, my attention tends to wander a bit towards the end before being seized by the scruff and dragged back in by the exemplary “Par le Glaive,” which I really can’t say enough nice things about. I don’t feel Ordalies needs the additional editing, but I might have had an easier time if it was shorter.

Véhémence is an impressive band. Their “medieval” style could so easily come across as gimmicky and stale, a folk metal band trying desperately to be “different.” Instead, it feels fresh and authentic every time they release something new, an enjoyable and fun take on both the black and folk metal styles. I wouldn’t mind a more succinct delivery next time, but it’s hard to complain about having too much of a good thing. Ordalies is a good thing; if you like either one of black or folk metal, I’d happily recommend giving this one a try.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3a
Label: Antiq Records
Websites: vehemencembm.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Véhémence-1079174508761708
Releases Worldwide: March 8th, 2022

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