Neige et Noirceur - _Crepuscule Hivernal Sans Fin sur les Terres de la Guerre_
(Dungeons Deep / Hypnotic Dirge Records, 2009)
by: Yulon Zhu (7.5 out of 10)
Sometimes bands grip a profuse amount of attention before releasing any standardized full-lengths. There is a dusting of bands that have sprung to omnipotent status releasing only a tape or two, a "best of" disc and scores of re-releases and re-re-releases for younger fans and those not worthy enough to have acquired one of the "limited to 200 copies" original. Neige et Noirceur, while not having leaped any godly bounds to cult status, has still gained measurable attention for EPs, demos and even a couple of rarely seen singles containing ambient black metal, worshipping the wintry Elysium of Canada. Last year's _Ancien Folklore Quebecois_ published Spiritus' reverence for his homeland, paying homage to the traditions and history of Quebec. 2007's _L'Abîme des Jours, l'Écume des Nuits_ gave off the deep twilight glow of a snow covered landscape sheathed in a light fog with a brew of raw black metal and otherworldly ambient. _Crepuscule Hivernal Sans Fin sur les Terres de la Guerre_ ("Dark endless winter on the lands of war") plays along with that same theme, haunting the mind with occult-ish combinations of chanting, whispering, rainfall, coyote howls, footsteps and black metal.

"Aux Portes de la Crypte" initiates with rainfall, the sounds of knife sharpening, church bells, murmurs, a child's whimpering, coven-like group prayers, an unsettling haunted cathedral-inspired organ theme and Spiritus' hungered vocals. Blood-boiling guitars, howls and scratchy screams are the onset of leviathan sized title track "Crepuscule Hivernal Sans Fin sur les Terres de la Guerre"; a verbose name to match 26 minutes of creeping atmosphere of the penultimate track. Some parts consist of a weathered structure, beaten down into the ground to give off a muted, unbreathable atmosphere, and others, of the weather; rain, wind and the coldness of frost. Keyboard parts again add a gothic, sitting alone in an abandoned church in the dead of winter vibe. The black metal half of Neige et Noirceur always comes back, unleashed in the form of classically fuzzy, cold guitars, crisp drums and sandy throat screams. This track is unmercifully long and takes its toll though, the variation changes it to seem like many track strewn together. Lastly, "Hibernation" is a lurid end of amazingly themed horror. A goal of Spiritus on this release was to create creepy music, and while the previous tracks are dark, "Hibernation" achieves this scare. The approach and the atmosphere are right for a foreboding experience of hair-raising ambience without any black metal. Perfectly suiting a midnight stroll into an unknown part of town with heavy footsteps that emerge from out of nowhere and powerful background noise like a dark alley, supposedly empty.

_Crepuscule..._ shows, as has been shown time after time, that French (be it French-Canadian respectively) black metal is a genre unmatched. Norway may lay claim to the "true" grim and Satanic strains of metal (though South American bands are dangerously evil and may even top their Scandinavian brethren in that aspect); France and it seems, the French graced part of Canada, are black metal leaders in their own right. Neige et Noirceur ride the tail of a growing league of ambient / black bands that understand fright does not always come in the form of fang, nail or stinger, but could be a dark shape lurking behind, always disappearing when you look over your shoulder, only to swallow you whole when you turn your head back 'round.

(article published 4/11/2009)

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