O Quam Tristis – Les Chants Funestes

01/02/2009 § Leave a comment

Artist: O Quam Tristis
Title: Les Chants Funestes
Label: Palace of Worms
Genre: Darkwave / Medieval

Track Listing:

01 Oriens
02 Anna Soror
03 O Caelo
04 Bulla Fulminante
05 Sancta Nox
06 Planctus Samsonis
07 O Vox Prophetica
08 O Abies
09 Soror, conjux, gemma
10 Verna Redit Temperies
11 O Meiam Miseram
12 De Ramis Cadunt Folia

I only found out recently that I’d been writing “O Quam Tristis…” wrongly all these years. The actual name of the band has an imposed ellipsis after the last word, even though leaving it out would have been simpler for everyone. It certainly would have been for me, anyway. Therefore I’m going to be pettily rebellious by forgetting it ever existed, and if some ardent perfectionist fans feel cheated by its removal or my lack of respect then feel free to make your own stand and mentally insert it. I’m sure the band would have wanted it that way. Though going by the sound of their latest disc, an omitted punctuation mark is going to be the least of their problems.

O Quam Tristis are a well-respected group of musicians with a small, dedicated following in the ethereal/darkwave scene. However, I’ve never really been able to understand the justification behind the following unless it’s all made up of close friends, family members and random reviewers giving them high ratings under duress. Their style mixes subtle electro with clean, guitar-driven medieval music in the vein of a watered-down Qntal, each song being led my an intermingling of male and female voices which lend the songs an edge of Gregorian chant. It’s certainly a good idea but as with many of these ‘medieval’ bands, what seems fantastic on paper ends up aurally as little more than a bland, underbuffed musical exercise which never quite manages to go the distance it should.

The electro elements aren’t there all the time, though. There are numbers that don’t feature them at all and contain purely vocals and clean, plucked guitars such as the opener Oriens, or O Vox Prophetica which features purely female vocals and synthesised pianos and wind instruments. The rest of the time the electro is there in full force, more so than in previous releases, but it’s not the type of full-on, harsh industrial style that some bands experiment with. I always found Qntal’s earlier works to be a bit too heavy on the electro which is certainly something that one couldn’t accuse O Quam Trsitis of since the electro is always subtle and even refreshing at times and there are moments such as in O Abies and Verna Redit Temperies where it’s quite refreshing on top of the medieval underlay.

The main problem for O Quam Tristis lies in the album’s nature to create songs which are far too similar to each other and this, coupled with rather dull singing, doesn’t do them a whole lot of favours. The guitar playing may be excellently done and the synth playing quite accomplished but the vocals are dreary and even dirgelike at times, creating quite a soporific aura. It’s also common for both voices to fall below the notes they’re trying to project and there are few things less inspiring than a song sung with no pep or vigour, and if the vocalists seem to be losing interest every so often it doesn’t provide much hope for the rest of us.

There’s normally a chance with some bands that things will improve in the long term, but for O Quam Tristis this isn’t necessarily the case. Les Chants Funestes is their fourth album and doesn’t stray at all from their previous material. I’d love there to be some beacon or semblance of promise here since the band can go further if they chose to unlock some kind of emotion – some spark of feeling – anything other than the dingy haze of tedium that gums up Les Chants Funestes. Even though they may have an interest in medieval themes and music, this doesn’t mean that this interest translates particularly well onto CD. The disappointing vocals and doggerel, tiresome compositions make this is a very lukewarm addition to the darkwave genre where the splendid work of other bands such as Dominion III and Helium Vola ruthlessly outshine it.

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