Friday, 5 February 2010

Sorcier Des Glaces - Moonrise In Total Darkness (2006) 88/100.

It has taken a long time, precisely eight years, but Sébastien Robitaille has returned to offer us his sophomore record, entitled ‘Moonrise In Total Darkness’, a supreme melodic black metal work which puts to shame his debut. I am somewhat partial to the debut but, as you might have been able to tell from my review of it, I do not like the production that encases the material. It was like wearing a pair of pants that don’t fit properly, the production just couldn’t contain the magic that was bubbling up beneath the surface. Our vision was obscured by the dampening production which put out the flame of the infectious melodies with a bucket of ice cold water. Now, eight years on and with a record label behind him, Sébastien Robitaille has been able to put his worthwhile style into better hands, one’s which could showcase his talents well and with a more bombastic productive showcase.

In the simplest terms, this record is what ‘Snowland’ wanted to be and more and that is possible simply due to putting a new spin on an old tale by perfecting the production. There were no real problems with the instrumentation on ‘Snowland’, though the whispered vocals served little purpose in the grand scheme of things, so I had no worries regarding the potential of Sorcier Des Glaces’ future. This record is exactly what I wanted to hear. The bass is back and at the forefront of our imaginations again, solidifying the good work that the guitars lay down over it and the melodic approach has been heightened simply due to the new and improved, efficient production values which gives the atmospherics a brand spanking new sound and quality. As I said, there is now a bombastic, shimmering element to the songs which makes them sound more forceful and with it, far more powerful than ever before.

In fact, in the case of ‘Moonrise In Total Darkness’, the production is now having trouble containing the brilliance of certain elements, such as the soaring keyboards on songs like ‘Glociale Solitude’, which may be brief instrumental tracks, but these expose the weaknesses of the previous record. The new production, courtesy of having a new record label (Mankind) to fall back on, has seemingly given the band the confidence to perform without needing to take the hindrance it posed in question on previous occasions. I do find some of Sébastien’s drumming to be somewhat laboured. He is a much better guitarist than he is a drummer, though he is still competent enough to hold the atmosphere together almost entirely through the use of integral bass, clean and harsh guitars and those luscious keyboards.

His vocals have altered somewhat, reminding me specifically of Michael Bayusik of New Conquers Day and Tearstained, amongst others. Unlike Bayusik, Sébastien doesn’t use overwhelming, piercing screams like that of a rock n’ roll star on the 1980’s. He sticks primarily to his deep vocals and doesn’t resort to rasps, or anything as traditional as that. It’s difficult to describe exactly what they are, but I find comparing them to Bayusik’s vocals makes me more comfortable and familiar with the concept of his voice and how he chooses to use it. His vocals don’t draw any major positives, as this is down to the other three elements I mentioned earlier. These elements bring out the best in the atmospherics and on songs like ‘Behold The Halls Of Ice’ truly do showcase what Sorcier Des Glaces are all about by switching effortlessly between shimmering, soaring soundscapes, to distorted, icy cold atmospherics which remind me of wintry Canadian landscapes.

There is a definite beauty to the keyboards and how it works with the bass and guitars. The drumming is a lacklustre element, but it has it’s moments to shine, as on songs like ‘La Pleine Lune Éclaire Les Ombres Du Royaume Des Glaces’, which develop into extremely experimental affairs as the bass strikes a really good riff alongside a punishing, cold guitar riff and then the percussion can switch between Immortal styled blasts and catchy patterns. The song writing has improved, though there are a lot of similarities between this record and the debut, ‘Snowland’. The song writing makes an effort to include all elements and give them a chance in front of the audience to have their say like they’re making life altering speeches about some political event, or other. I really do feel that a simple change in production has made Sorcier Des Glaces more accessible and punchier, even, giving them a resonance and bombastic quality that serves the cleaner elements especially well - though it also does a good job at supporting the misanthropic natural vibe that the distorted aspects provide. Essential melodic black metal.

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