Label: Sepulchral Productions
Forteresse are a rather special band. The godfathers of Métal Noir Québécois – their debut album giving the movement its name – return now, 10 years on from their formation, with Thémes Pour La Rébellion. And, to these ears, it is their strongest release since their debut. Intense as it is, the Métal Noir Québécois sound is not one that lends itself to massive diversity, being built as it is upon whirlwind riffs and remorseless, pummeling drumming. Instead, continued success and interest is dependent upon conviction and atmosphere, both of which are in abundance here. This is black metal at its most heartfelt, a furious, all-encompassing celebration of national pride and patriotism.
Musically, Forteresse haven’t sounded this intense or confident since their first album. There has been no grand evolution in their sound – it is still built upon furious riffs, stirring leads, and pounding drums, topped with raw-throated vocals. But what is present is an utterly unshakable self-belief, aided by the strongest production Forteresse have had to date. Whilst hardly clean by mainstream standards, the production is bright enough to let more of the subtleties in Forteresse’s sound come through. After all, when the music is this intense, and often seems repetitive (in a good way), those subtle shifts in drum patterns and guitar movements become all the more important. It also ensures that the leads come through strongly and clearly, emphasizing their considerable emotional power, often with spine-chilling results, as on “Vésperales”. Whilst those descriptions might recall a whole host of comparable black metal sub-genres – such as Cascadian and Eastern European black metal – there is less of the melancholy spirit that characterizes those styles, and more a sense of pride that almost verges upon arrogance. The only real respite from the intensity comes with closer “Le Dernier Voyage”, an ice-cold atmospheric closer, full of the chilling power of winter.
From what I can tell (no lyrics sheet is provided, and my French is almost non-existant), Thémes Pour La Rébellion is based upon the Canadian rebellions of 1837 against British rule. This is in keeping with Forteresse’s patriotic and nationalistic themes, which have tended towards a celebration of their heritage, rather than looking down upon others – a difference than may seem small to some, but can be very important. It ensures that the music has a proud, strong bearing throughout, rather than a hateful one. This is also reflected in song titles such as “Les Sang des Héros”. It is empowering in its own right, without having to denigrate others.
It’s hard to adequately express just how stirring and powerful Thémes Pour La Rébellion is. Considering that I have no connection to Canada and do not understand the lyrics, that the album has such an effect on me is quite telling of its power. Forteresse have always been an inspirational band to the underground, but this feels like the album that could see them break out to a wider audience. Proud, strong and devastatingly intense, Forteresse have unleashed an album for the ages.
Thémes Pour La Rébellion is due for release on 24th June 2016, and can be pre-ordered on CD via Sepulchral Productions.