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.

Dark Sanctuary – Exaudi Meam Part II

20/03/2007 § Leave a comment

Exaudi Vocem Meam Pt II is the sixth full-length elegy by French harbingers of moroseness, Dark Sanctuary. If you’re into the ethereal genre, or even if you’re heavily embedded in the metal scene, you may have had some inkling that this instalment had moped onto the shelves a couple of months ago. I don’t know what it is about Dark Sanctuary but there seems to be such an inexhaustible supply of source material from which to draw their music: each album is fine-tuned to the hilt with some of the most dirgelike and depressing songs that its legally possible to squash onto one CD. Whatever’s going on in their lives I can only hope that it’s all an act and when they exit the studio they bounce, space-hopper like down the road in throes of inexorable glee and get on with their lives entertaining kids as life-sized bunnies at birthday jamborees.

Whatever may be going on in the cold recesses of their heads might be doing some good though, for at least they are able to produce albums which, although more than a little bleak, are just the kind of thing that the aspiring ethereal music fan will slurp up like crushed velvet throes. Exaudi Vocem Meam II is a more realised, more honed and sharper album than its predecessor which, though it stuck to the confines of the mould that Dark Sanctuary set themselves, almost ended up being asphyxiated by it. Pt I concerned me that the band were losing their edge, it suffered from a lack of enthusiasm and energy, whereas Pt II sees the band well and truly back on the right track – more so in fact – since it is the most ingenious and inventive album that they have put out yet, and for once they have tried to do something different with their hallmark sound.

Once again, the strength of this album lies in its simplicity, something well exhibited in Les Mémoires Blessées and L’être las – L’envers du miroir though this time the simplicity takes the forms of more straightforward piano riffs, softer pacey drumming segments, and a modest amount of experimentation with vocal parts. These all help the songs to have some kind of even flow through them when in the past it’s been too easy for Dark Sanctuary albums to come across as one big lump of ethereal mush. This time, songs like J’ai Rêvé d’une Vie, La rêveuse and the brilliant Femme d’un soldat mort all give us the same welcome slice of Dark Sanctuary but with a slightly different tinge to them, wheras Creuseur de Terre stands out as being one of the more prominent numbers because of its sinister dark ambient quality. Finish it all off with a French cover of Sally’s Complaint from The Nightmare Before Christmas and you have a remarkable work of ethereal music.

The atmospherics that Dark Sanctuary fill their compositions with are back in full force: everything is tinted with a soft, dark tone, filled with introspection, contemplation and sallow wretchedness. Though this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, those who revel in the atmosphere of this band won’t be disappointed. In this way, it’s very difficult to fault this album since the band deliver everything that they have done previously as well as throwing a few differences into the mix which, rather than tossing the songs into places they don’t belong, are subtle enough to make them stand out from previous efforts. The more standard DS songs are there too, with L’inconnue, Vision meurtrie and Un jour, peut-être…being of the slower and more recognisable style.

Since the lacklustre slump that was Exaudi Vocem Mean Pt I, Dark Sanctuary have risen to produce not only a quality album within their own catalogue, but one of the best things to hit the ethereal and darkwave scene for a very long time. The band have shown they are capable of altering their sound so their music doesn’t suffer, and indeed this may be necessary in order to keep their future music from being carbon copies of their earlier works. Exaudi Vocem Meam Part II is by far the superior of the duo: its lush gloom and self-belief make it one of the best works in the genre that I’ve come across for a very long time.

8.5/10

Dark Sanctuary – L’être las – l’envers du miroir

12/11/2003 § Leave a comment

CD Info
2003
Wounded Love Records
14 Tracks
French lyrics

Putting Dark Sanctuary on and trying to get into them after just listening to a metal album would be quite a hard thing to do. They really slow everything down to almost a grinding halt. This music would be the comedown, the dirge, the ultimate party killer in any situation you care to think of. It could even depress gospel singers. It’s that level of melancholy and gloominess. Pest control firms should play it to rats instead of giving them poison because they’ll all commit suicide.

The music that Dark Sanctuary make is ambient, ethereal and atmospheric. Everything is soft, deep, and contemplative. This is obviously the kind of music these people were made for since it comes across as being so natural, so fluent and so fluid that if they tried their hands at anything else it wouldn’t be as convincing. There’s also something quite classy about this album, I don’t know if it’s the strength of the violins, the dark tones of the songs or the quality of the singing, but there’s an x-factor that lets you know there’s something special about the music.

Dark Sanctuary have been around since 1998, and this album seems to be their biggest and most confident work. It is the Mecca that their other songs were trying to get to all those years. It has its mixtures of vocal and instrumental tracks, and the good thing about the instrumentals is that they don’t drag on for ages. Face A Une Mort Rassasiée, for instance, is just over a minute long and comprising of only a few string chords, but the strength in them can’t fail to move you as a listener. It makes you wonder what other lesser bands are doing with themselves when given more at their disposal and coming out with very boring and meaningless songs.

One thing might have caught your notice so far – Dark Sanctuary are from France and they’re not afraid to show it. There is not one track on this album in English, and it’s one of those situations when you have to get your head round the fact that you’re not necessarily going to understand everything; but French is a beautiful language, and here it’s beautifully sung. In fact, the vocals are stunning, wavering between clean and operatic though not touching either, but the sound is undeniably charming. The best songs on the album, L’Arrogance and Loin Des Mortals coax you in gently and raise the richness and the intensity gradually to give you something filling and satisfying. The atmosphere is a full on, never ebbing stream of grave emotion, but so wonderfully communicated that it leaves you feeling rewarded for giving it your time and that you’re doing something worthwhile with your ears.

However, though this album has its striking moments, there might be times when you’ll just drift off halfway through a song and wake up a few tracks further on. Not everything grabs your attention and some of the songs get a little annoying in parts. As well as that, this music can be so sombre and moody that it’s hard not to feel a little depressed after a while. It’s good to take it a couple of songs at a time, otherwise you’ll overdose and get into a mope. Listening to the whole 73 minutes in one go is nothing but a passport to mental torpor and emotional flagging. Nevertheless, if you’re the kind of person that loves introspection and delving into the recesses of your own thoughts [or someone else’s, for that matter], you could do far worse than to get your hands on this.

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