Label: Throatruiner Records
Whilst most hardcore records are pretty immediate, with their energy and speed being their chief points of note, the same isn’t quite true of Place Noire by France’s Death Engine. Their brand of hardcore is infused with a sense of tension and weight that is heavily influenced by noise rock, with the songs moving largely at a mid-tempo as if weighed down by the depths of despair and pain they carry. This is not hardcore for a good time; Place Noire is a half hour of soul-searching, of deep pain, and of the promise of redemption dangling so tantalisingly close, but forever out of reach.
More than anything, what Place Noire offers is tension; the push-and-pull of the music, stretching the riffs and drum patterns until they become uncomfortable, shifting as if to hint at emotional resolution, before moving back in to uncomfortable territories, is incredibly unsettling and effective. Death Engine make the listener work for their catharsis; but when it comes, delivered with an accompaniment of hissing, screeching feedback, the relief is almost physical.
When I say that the listener has to work for their rewards, I really mean it. Place Noire is an album that will throw the listener in to the deep end of its roiling, all-consuming darkness and pain without any warning, with the slightly raw production and live nature of the recordings giving the album a ragged, spiky feel. This is especially evident in the vocals, which feel emotionally unfiltered, pouring every possibly drop of suffering in to each word as if hoping to cast such feelings out in to the aether.
If all of this makes Place Noire sound like an uncomfortable experience – well, it is. But music like this isn’t designed for casual listening; it’s made to serve a specific emotional need, to help express things that aren’t always easy to put down in words. There will be times when things feel not just bad, but damaged beyond repair; when life seems like nothing but a series of misfortunes, where nothing will ever go right again. Place Noire understands that feeling, and is the soundtrack to such times. When you’re at your lowest, this album won’t so much offer comfort, but a sense of understanding, letting you know that you’re not in this hell alone. It’s important to have albums that can do that, and even if you might not listen to Place Noire often, for the times you do need it, it will surely feel like one of the most important, cathartic albums in your collection.
Place Noire is available digitally, on CD, and on vinyl via Bandcamp.