VEHEMENTER NOS
"Vehementer Nos"

(Osmose)

01. Contre le cycle
02. Les devastes
03. Absurde
04. Seuls
05. Dans le flot

RATING: 8/10

According to Wikipedia (don't worry, the information has been verified) "Vehementer Nos was a papal encyclical promulgated by Pope Pius X in 1905. Occasioned by the French law of 1905 providing for the separation of church and state, it denounced the proposition that the state should be separated from the church as 'a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error.'" Now you're a hair more knowledgeable than you were several seconds ago. Not surprisingly, VEHEMENTER NOS is a French duo comprised of members Engwar (clean and raw vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, piano) and A.M. (drums, percussion, vocals). The self-titled debut album had been in the works for six years and can be considered progressive black metal, considering its mix of traditional black metal and neo-classical composition and instrumentation (guest musicians play piano, cello, double bass, and flute). As hit and miss as this kind of endeavor can be, you'll be heartened to know that the debut is all hits and no misses.

The album is an intelligently constructed work that while not following traditional song structuring conventions does not suck the listener down into a well of aimless wandering and complex-to-a-fault arrangements. Instead, it is 42 minutes of entrancing music that moves seamlessly from black metal ferocity to trance-inducing bliss to downright enchanting classical sections. In keeping with Engwar's intent to create an album using "real" (i.e. not programmed) instruments, the sound mix is effectively organic, including the natural drum sound.

Compositionally speaking, the five tracks flow together wonderfully, bringing the listener along on a trip that includes excursions into the darkest of depths, the saddest of memories, and the purest of beauties. The album begins with a quasi-instrumental track called "Contre le Cycle", featuring lower register choral background vocals (think a Catholic mass) followed by the sounds of acoustic guitar and violin before launching into furious black metal blasting. It's a fitting introduction to longer and more involved tracks. Clocking in at 12 and 11 minutes, respectively "La Devastes" and "Absurde" offer skillfully arranged songs that mix the aforementioned styles. In the former case, cello and chants sit side by side with black metal guitar harmonies and blasting. Around the last quarter of the song a soothing section of acoustic guitar strumming with violin, cello, and whispered vocals eventually gives way to a final blast of black metal fury. "Absurde" is characterized by a slight XASTHUR vibe, the plodding tempo including ringing chords and painful vocalization. It is the album's most doom-laden tune. While we're at it, a flute appears on the nine-minute "Seuls", joining mid to up-tempo, semi-melodic black metal chords before a piano-break softens the proceedings. A more subdued "Dans le Flot" ends the album with its violin and piano instrumentation that builds into a slow-paced black metal section.

Some albums of this sort feel as though the creators went for an avant-garde feel by simply tossing a variety of non-traditional instruments into a blender and hitting the "on" switch. VEHEMENTOR NOS is the sound of an outfit with a rhyme and a reason. At the risk of exaggeration, let's just say that the debut is not a watershed release. It's just a well-done work of progressive black metal.

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