Way to End
Various Shades of Black

Here is one of those 2013 releases that I slept on until now. From the label that brought the likes of The Great Old Ones, Ebonylake, Pensées Nocturnes comes some really interesting avant garde French black metal that is well…various shades of black.

There is A LOT going on here. The band is, if anything, ambitious with a vastly layered and at times busy sound that’s both atonal, yet strangely melodic. I detect hints of early Borknagar (just listen to the start of “A Mon Ombre”), Unexpect, Opthalamia, Fleurety, Arcturus, Negură Bunget and Deathspell Omega to say just a few. And if that list is overwhelming, so Various Shades of Black can be also. The guitar work in particular is essentially one long classically inspired solo, while the other instruments do their thing in the background. Whether it’s scattershot, circus-y black metal, frosty blasts or off-kilter, chant-filled atmospherics, the guitars rarely settle down, and for some that might be a bit much.

Don’t even listen to Various Shades of Black hoping for anything remotely catchy or memorable. The album twists and turns like a nest of baby snakes on shrooms. It’s chaotic but has a weird hypnotic elegance swaying in the background. It’s a strange cacophony of acid trip discordance and delirious Tim Burton-ish soundscapes. It’s not harrowing or disturbing, but somehow comes together in a colorful, weird, kaleidoscope of black metal juxtapositions. It’s never as over the top chaotic as label mates Ebonylake, as there are much more warmer, definable layers and things going on, so it’s never pure noise, but don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy driving to work music.

I’m even a bit hesitant to highlight songs or moments, as the album is not really designed to go to a single track or section, as simply there aren’t really many sections that stand still long enough to sink in. The unconventional delivery and structures are more suited to a Circque de Soleil viewing or LSD trip. It recalls some of the really genre pushing black Scandinavian metal bands from the mid ’90s, but has a undeniably distinct French accent and aura. Even with the really challenging sound, there is still a tangible black metal undercurrent, even if it’s twisted and veneered with smeared clown paint and corpse paint at the same time (“L’Aprenti”, ” La Ronde des Muses Fânées”).

The only thing I can really say for potential buyers is to check out some samples first, and stay with it. Initially, it really is an overwhelming listen, but in the right mindset, Various Shades of Black will revel itself, possibly brilliantly.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
January 31st, 2014

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