I could start off with a joke about how the members of Briqueville have worn masks since before it was a thing to do, but given that their outfits are inspired by the Nazgul, maybe best not to. On the topic of masked bands, those who wish to compare this act to another European act full of Nameless Ghouls can get out, come back, apologize, and then fuck off again. As much as I love Ghost, they are more of a pop act than most modern metal acts. Briqueville are a collective of musicians with experience steeped in jazz, electronic, and metal music with anonymous members and long-form tracks. Take their newest album, Quelle, which is eight tracks totalling nearly an hour of music. It’s dense, it’s something one may find better fit to pick apart and consume in its individual pieces, but for those who take the plunge and get a perfect bite, dreamy post-metal soundscapes and top-tier guitar work.
“Akte VIII,” picking up where the previous album II left off titlewise, is a droning and atmospheric affair, made up largely of various instruments floating around the key of F until about halfway in. The drums kick in in a pounding, impending fashion, before the guitars tear their way in. It’s a remarkably simple track, but damn if it doesn’t get the blood pumping throughout its six-minute runtime. The subsequent “Akte IX” chugs around that low A note, with a simple drum beat and flourishes of guitars breaking up the monotony. Its doom-laden nature makes it heavy, with its call and response lead breaks adding to the musicality of the track.
What follows is the monolithic and gargantuan “Akte X,” clocking in at over fourteen minutes. It would not be doing this track justice to break it down blow by blow, but know that this sort of song is a marathon and not a sprint. Those looking for things to get ultra-heavy will be left waiting until around the ten-minute mark, but one dare not skip ahead, lest they miss out on some older rock-sounding parts and loads of atmosphere. As a palate cleanser, “Akte XI” sounds less like a metal song and more like something you’d hear at a larger renaissance faire, but that could also be my inner Appalachian speaking. Once the guitars kick in after the first minute, they produce gorgeous licks and hummable lines throughout.
“Akte XII” brings things back into the metal stratosphere, albeit with staccato palm muting and some odd time signatures that work almost too well for their own good. The leads sound metal enough, but the slight calliope and uncanny edge just works. It’s got a heavy hand when needed, and just lets things slip into oddity when it isn’t needed. The follow-up “Akte XIII” feels closer to doom and sludge, sounding like The Sword with all of that fuzz and wanton riffing. With these two most recent tracks, the guitar work doesn’t get better anywhere else in the album.
On “Akte XIV,” the name of the game is tribal drums, coupled with ringing-out guitar lines that are allowed to breathe for their full effect to be achieved. The drums lay low in the mix, allowing for the guitars to explore the soundscape and play around in the mix, as things pick up in intensity and unease, building and building until the dam breaks. The closer “Akte XV” traipses back into doom territory with monster riffs and some more excellent guitar work. This track, perhaps more than any other on the album, is cinematic and epic, yet accessible enough to be a pleasant listen to even the uninitiated.
Is this an album that is going to see universal acclaim? Probably not, if only there will be a number of listeners that won’t “get it.” But if they go into a listen of Quelle with the goal of “getting it,” they’re setting themselves up for disaster. Go in with little to no expectations, go in as blind as possible, and let these Belgian masked metallers have their way with your ears for an hour, then make your judgment call. At worst, you get a taste of what anonymity can produce, and at best, you get a progressive post-metal powerhouse of a record.
Quelle is available now via Pelagic Records.