La Division Mentale - _L'eXstase des Fous_
(Blood Fire Death, 2007)
by: Quentin Kalis (8.5 out of 10)
Regular readers will know that I am an unabashed admirer of the French black metal scene, which I regard as one of (if not the) strongest worldwide at the moment. Unlike the Eastern European scene, which possesses quality pagan and NSBM orientated bands in abundance but is weak in other black metal divisions, the French have mastered black metal in virtually all its multifaceted glory -- from the seminal atmospheric primacy of the Les L├ęgions Noires, through to unashamed Cradle of Filth worship.

Against this background, how does industrialised black metal fare? If La Division Mentale can be considered as a reliable indicator, then this sphere is not doing too badly either. And I do mean black metal -- this is not one of those melodic, The Kovenant styled dance floor pleasers that litter the scene.

Riffs black in nature are decontextualised within an eerie, sample-laden atmosphere that at times is vaguely reminiscent of Thorns or Seth. Although the bestial minimalism of black metal is lost, they retain its viciousness. It sounds as if a drum machine is being used; but that can be overlooked, given the nature of the beast. Vocals consist of the usual third wave rasp, albeit distorted and entirely in French. They do have an unfortunate tendency to indulge in overlong stretches of atmospherics, however. I have no doubt that the band will claim it is integral to their sound, but it does feel as if it is used to stretch out some songs unnecessarily. In any case, there is no shortage of atmosphere generating intermezzos.

Their debut may not be an unqualified success, but is sufficient to pique one's interest, and has not dented my faith in French black metal.


(article published 15/8/2007)

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