French black metal means something different to just about everyone. For some, it’s the devilish chaos of Deathspell Omega or Blut Aus Nord. Others think of Les Légions Noires and its stripped down, raw approach. Or maybe the multi-talented Neige is the bannerman you envision, an artist who has contributed so much to the evolution of the style in the past decade despite recently casting it aside. But I don’t believe it boils down to a single band or artist. French black metal is about uncompromising individualism, seeking a path previously untraveled and challenging the norms of this traditionally primitive style. And this debut album from newcomers Verlies does all that and more.
Taking a heavy jazz and post-rock influence and melding it with emotional, mournful grimness is the base of the stew concocted by this solo project, and the deeper in you dive the thicker and more potent it gets. A sense of groove driven by the counterpoint between the bass and lead guitar quickly becomes the star of the album. It takes a few minutes of getting used to as these are usually the last instruments given heed by a band that claims to be atmospheric anything. But it’s a refreshing change of pace that injects a dynamic rarely heard among practitioners of the dark arts. Long, ever-changing songs make up the meat of Le Domaine Des Hommes, fitting given the role of the instruments. “Maladie” is the best example of the band’s kitchen-sink approach to the music. One minute a torrent of unrelenting waves is crashing down and the next they turn to calm waters as you drift out into the open ocean, enticed by N.’s dreamy clean vocals.
Comparisons to early Alcest are obvious, but Verlies never gets anywhere near as ethereal or meandering. A more obtuse approach is taken, proven by the insanely complicated song structures and unstable melodies. This will appeal to fans of experimentation; those looking for a memorable, catchy jaunt may need some time to get under the skin of what’s being offered. Call it atmospheric, post, or even gaze, but this is first and foremost a musician’s black metal album. The conversation between the instruments, the dynamic yet cohesive songwriting, the duality of intense and lighter, more laid-back moments all come together to make for something impossibly unique and adventurous. A recipe that should make any Frenchman proud.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]