Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes Review

Many of us know, I guess, that moment of extreme disappointment when you unwrap a prime steak you’ve been looking forward to, only to be greeted by the putrid smell of gone-off meat. “It makes no sense, I only bought the fucking thing yesterday,” you mutter darkly to yourself. That steak should have been good for another couple of days at least. “How could this have happened? Why did it have to happen to me and why today?” I can’t answer any of those questions—quite frankly, I have my own problems—but that foul whiff of putrefaction reminds of the rancid filth that emanates from the debut record of French four-piece Viande. Is that whiff the reason these blackened, atmospheric death dealers all seem to delight in draping sacks over their heads?

It’s not for me to say. But their brand of heavily Incantation-influenced, doom-laden death metal practically oozes out the speakers, much as a sludgy sewage leak might. Nasty, distorted guitars, oozing oil-slick noise samples, pounding drums and guttural roars and growls straight from some hellish underworld make up Viande’s butcher’s kit. A pastiche of early Incantation and more recent Cruciamentum, L’abime dévore les âmes (The Abyss that Devours Souls) is no picnic. Insistent, urgent and brutal, Viande modulate the tempo across their debut but, whether it’s the frantic pace of opener “Les Dent du Gouffre” or the tortured tones of closer “Langues de Brume,” which gets dangerously close to drone, these Frenchmen are never less than intensely unsettling.

There’s more than a hint of sludge in the mix on L’abime dévore les âmes but also, in a somewhat unexpected addition to the mix, dollops of Portal’s Avow in the grimy riffage and eerie soundscapes of tracks like “La Tombe Avide” and “Le Souffle des Os.” Across the album, vocalist J is a man possessed, turning himself inside out as he screams completely unintelligible but no doubt portentous predictions of the world ending in a storm of blood and other bodily fluids. Probably. These grim tales are set to the apocalyptic samples and feedback-laden riffs of B, which oscillate between distended doom and static-laced technicality. It is drummer M, however, that is the glue holding together this unholy union. Sometimes metronomically ominous (“Lueurs de Cendres”), at others deftly progressive (“Traitre a la Vie”) but undoubtedly able to step up the intensity whenever needed (“Miroir Decharne” or “Le Souffle des Os”), M carries Viande along on a tide of blasts and pounding energy. This allows the other members extra leash to generate an atmosphere of bilious threat.

If there is an issue with L’abime dévore les âmes it’s that that atmosphere is all-consuming. Not in the way that people complain about atmoblack being driven by too many lengthy ambient passages—although these do surface briefly in a couple of places—but rather that the overall feel Viande generates somehow contrives to make the record a little one-note. This is curious because, in fact, the band plays delicately with tempos and modulates the black, death and doom edges of their sound with some skill. Yet, after many listens, I find myself unable to identify individual songs with any confidence or point to standout or really distinct moments on L’abime dévore les âmes, something heightened by the vocals in particular. These, as monstrous as they are, need a little more variation. Thus, while the album flows well, with everything seemingly in its rightful place, the sepulchral, primordial feel of Viande, which put me in mind of Arkhaaik, is a tiring sound after a while. This is amplified to a degree by the production, which is huge, rumbling, and cavernous but lacks subtlety.

Viande’s brand of death metal is drenched in exactly the sort of abyssal doomy atmosphere that an album entitled L’abime dévore les âmes ought to be. The more time I spent with the album, the more conflicted I became about how to score it, however. On the one hand, there is much to like about Viande’s brutal, deathly sound and the band are undoubtedly skilled. On the other, the songwriting holds them back slightly. That is not to say that Viande’s craft is poor, it is not and, doubtless mileage will vary. For me, however, L’abime dévore les âmes is a flawed but hugely promising debut that leaves Viande plenty of room to grow.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 15th, 2022

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