In the last year, like many of us, I’ve had loads of time to expose myself to new music. Post-metal, or any of the post-genre branches for that matter, wasn’t a subgenre of the heavy stuff that was ever really on my radar before, even though I am a sucker for some low, nasty sludge. Before I gush anymore about these niches, yes, I do realize that the splitting hairs that is subgenre classification gets annoying after a while, but it also demonstrates some of the beauty of this genre we love so much. And when a band rides the line between subgenres, walking on that razor’s edge ever so delicately, it often provides for an excellent final product.
Such is the case with French post-metal duo Vous Autres. These Parisian powerhouses blend drone, progressive, and black metal into a rattling, mind-expanding blend of music. With notes of psychedelia and doom, this dense and hefty brew of extreme music makes for a versatile listen, whether used as background music or as an intentional cover-to-cover experience. If it sounds like I’m describing a cup of designer coffee, that’s because that is what I can liken this sophomore record, Sel de Pierre, to: carefully crafted, stunningly consumable, and you notice something new every time.
“Onde” opens the album and wastes no time introducing the listener to low droning guitar lines buffered by methodical drumming and plenty of double kick sections. Hearing blast beats in one section that lacks much right-hand movement (in other words, you can hear the snare clearly, but the cymbal much less so) is something you don’t often see in black metal, but it works here, so I’ll take it. “Vesuve” takes a ringing-out guitar line for its intro, before the toms thump in to take things to ominous, heart-pounding heights. Above the lower melody is an alternate-picked melody that compliments it, providing a feeling of different planes of existence, a six-stringed “as above, so below” complex, if you will.
The first ambient track is “Ecueil,” which starts with the cracklings of a thunderstorm brewing. Electronics dictate the rhythm, as opposed to percussion, building towards the next crushing number. As the title translates to “danger” in French, the calm before the storm feeling it invokes is fitting. “Sans Sèves” barrels in with more of the double kicks that allowed “Onde” to succeed, with a deliberate pace to boot. The way the piercing leads play off of the roaring rhythm guitars, leaving the only complaint being its dreadfully short (for this act, at least) four and a quarter minutes runtime.
“In Humus” lets eight and a half minutes feel like nothing at all, even while it builds and builds until the shrieking vocals kick in around three minutes in. Clean guitars ring out over an ambient soundscape. It is broad in the strokes it paints, right up till the guitars tear into the mix. It’s low, intentional music, this track is, nightmarish and vivid all the while. Just before the five minute mark, there’s a jarring bass section, buffered by a guitar line that sounds unnatural in a good way, and it just grabs the attention. After this dissonant storm, “Nitre” takes things home, sending things to a springtime paradise after the mind has been properly warped by the wintry, calamitous hellscapes painted prior.
This record brings violence and destruction in the way that you wouldn’t necessarily expect black metal to do. If your traditional corpse-painted black metal is facing the enemy head-on, this is psychological warfare, wearing the foe down and forcing the fight to occur on their terms, on their turf. Sel de Pierre may not be the album for everyone, but it is an album that everyone should hear at least once.
Sel de Pierre is available now via Season of Mist Underground Activists.