Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes

Sühnopfer (German for ‘Atonement’) is a French, one man black metal project featuring Ardraos, who has been around a while and has surfaced in a number of well known and lesser known French bands like Peste Noire, Aorlhac, Veratyr, Endymion, Antrum Mortis and others. This project, while productive with 2 full lengths and various demos and splits under his belt , is new to me, but it’s this third album that should put this projection the black metal map.

This is a style of melodic black metal thats got some medieval, church-y hues, (ie Gregorian chants), which are horribly underused,  but when I say melodic black metal, I mean Dissection meets Forteresse’s Themes Pour La Rebellion meets Liturgy’s Aesthethica on crack, hyper speed, beehive hooked to a speak, sounds like there are 5 guitars playing at once melodic. At times, it comes across as exhausting,, overly layered busy chaos but at other times, its a magnificent, triumphant, rousing soaring delivery of feverishly melodic, black metal thats truly brilliant.

The disparity is about half and half, with the better, more memorable melodies in the title track and the album’s latter third (there are only 9 lengthy songs), starting with “Je vivroie liement”. That’s not to say the first 6 tracks are chopped liver, but certainly, the last 3 tracks stuck with me more and made the album for me. After a brief intro, the first song “Pénitences et sorcelages”, gets to it right away letting you know what the next 50 of so minutes will be like. If you can stomach that, the rest of the album will be OK for you as the title track starts with a super shrill melodic promising melody line, and that’s the heart of the matter, there is sooooo much going on, that there’s no time to enjoy a riff or the pretty much constant solos, as it does not last long before its washed away in a torrent of more shrill, frenetic riffs. Case and point, 2nd track “Pénitences et Sorcelages”, at about 6:06, has this gorgeous shimmering melody, but it only lasts a few seconds, then poof it’s gone, it’s teasing as all get out.

But when Ardraos does lock onto something for more than a seconds, it’s spectacular, and often breathtaking. For example the title track has a couple of moments that simply gorgeous (ie the short lived little acoustic overlay) , and he sticks with it for more than a few bars, and its exquisite. Then the aforementioned 9 minute “Je vivroie liement”, with the Gregorian break and dramatic transition after is simply gripping. Following that, the seethingly dramatic “Dilaceratio Corporis” and 10 minute closer  “L’Hoirie de mes Ancestres” with more underutilized acoustics and chants, and has the album’s most poignant melodies round the album out, and you will either collapse with over stimulated glee, or shrug your shoulders and wander what all the fuss is about. I for one stand in the former group and will be cheeking out Sühnopfer’s back catalog and patiently waiting for the next album.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
June 25th, 2019


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