Title: Au Fleuve de Loire
Label: Antiq Records
Release Date: 03 May 2021
Format reviewed: High-quality digital recording
OK, ready your leather trousers and spikes but also grab a wooden flute, or just dig through your wardrobe for that dreaded old recorder from your school music classes all those years ago. Today we embark on a fantastic journey with Hanternoz!
“Au Fleuve de Loire” is the new full-length release for the French folk, black metal project. The band is the brainchild of Arzh Hyvermor, who is also the incredible talent behind Véhémence, Grylle, Braquemaard, and Régiment. This is the second album for the band and is released through Hyvermor’s label Antiq Records.
Over their fifteen-year career Hanternoz have been steadily evolving and maturing their sound, with each release being more refined and well-realised than the last. My first exposure to the band was when I stumbled upon the 2013 EP “Mallozh d’Ar Zistrujerien Kastell Ankiniz”, a high quality effort that’s clean, polished and very folk-forward. However, that EP is a stark contrast to the 2008 debut album “Metal Kozh”, which is wild, harsh, raw, and crude in it’s sound. Still a brilliant and enjoyable album just surprisingly different from the later work. Therefore, with the announcement of 2021’s “Au Fleuve de Loire”, I was curious to see how much further the band had progressed, which direction they’d take and how it would compare to previous releases.
The album presents nine tracks of black and folky French aggression and runs for a solid and satisfying sixty-nine minutes. As well as orchestrating all the extreme elements of their sound, Hyvermor plays a diverse array of traditional instruments including flute, mouth harp, bagpipes, bombard (a double reed, woodwind instrument) and jaunty synth. For this release he also enlists the talents of Sparda (of Créatures) for hurdy gurdy, bass and vocal support.
The black metal components of “Au Fleuve de Loire” are bold and protrusive which distinguishes it from some previous EPs. For someone like myself who is a fan of both gritty raw black metal and crisp, jolly, traditional folk music, the finesse in which Hanternoz manage to amalgamate these opposing elements on this album is a treat! The ominous darkness offered by the black metal elements are not extinguished by the lively folk injections. Instead the traditional melodies and instruments, which are still prominent, alter the mood or accent the hostile features without being overbearing or distracting. The production is clean but not sanitised, permitting the griminess to claw through. The album is full of nice, thick chugging riffs, prominent bass and diabolical vocals. It’s varying and unpredictable, at times even approaching an air of experimentalism or avant-garde.
The moods switch from the triumphant folksy melodies of “À Cul de Grève” in track two, to the psychedelic synth-laden compositions of “Vieille Nasse Crevée”, track five. Overall, this variety between tracks, combined with a diverse vocal performance feels fresh and fulfilling.
One of the stand out tracks for me was track six “Bateliers de Loire”, a song with lumbering drums and melodies that conjure feelings of victory and camaraderie, overlaid with anguished snarls and growls. The hints of flute, bombard and tambourine really round it all together beautifully.
With the release of “Au Fleuve de Loire”, Hanternoz have mastered a seamless blending of harsh and oft inaccessible black metal with the opposing jovial gaudiness of folk melodies and instruments. This is folk black metal at it’s best, and some of the most skilled use of folk instruments and melodies that I’ve heard within extreme metal. 8.5/10 Proua Metallist.
8.5/10 To greatness and glory!
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