Review Summary: "Il est un ciel orange plus absurde que les déserts"
When I say that Le Zahir
refuses to be pinned down, I mean it in a couple of senses: the structural twists and turns; the unique blend of black metal, psychedelia and jazz that Quebec-based Entheos had already mastered on their debut; and perhaps most importantly, its captivating, mysterious aura that simultaneously divulges and obscures. It’s worth noting that the concept of the Zahir comes from a short story by Jorge Luis Borges; according to the band, “the "Zahir" is a person or an object that has the power to create an obsession in everyone who sees it, thus making the affected person perceive less and less of reality and more and more of the Zahir, at first only while asleep, then at all times. Here, the Zahir is a metaphor of the making of a musical composition.”
The songs from Le Zahir
are luxuriously sprawling, bounding with each step; they patiently develop from complex, grooving basslines, intricate jazz-infused drumming and chords that clash in curious fashions. The usage of acoustic guitars contributes to a rustic, folkloric feel, sepia tones conveying timelessness. Dissonance is used not for menacing effect, but to evoke a certain foreignness - a strangeness that invites contemplation rather than fear. The mid-range harsh vocals are sharp, somewhat tortured, providing strong contrast to the album’s more languorous moments (such as “L’Orpheline” and its almost carefree stride). There are blast beats and riffing, yes, but there also exists beautiful restraint - the haunting clean vocals found in “L’Orpheline”, the way songs dip into a slower groove, a lone acoustic guitar channeling quiet despondence.
Something about Le Zahir
makes it distinctly intimate, despite its seemingly grandiose nature. The album is warm and seductive, enveloping you in a way such that you don’t even realize the wistfulness creeping in was induced and not an organic mood shift. At risk of promoting a non-robust distinction, I’d say that this is an album which possesses the heart but reveals little to the mind - a line from “Cité Perdue”, “les yeux purs sentent sans voir la cité perdue” (roughly “pure eyes sense, without seeing, the lost city”), captures this feeling nicely. Nonetheless, breaking down the moods of Le Zahir
itself is also a maddening affair - it’s ambiguous, fluid, even oddly childlike at times (see: bouncing rhythms on “Cité Perdue” and “L’Orpheline”). It doesn’t feel quite right to call it troubled; the lyrics’ scattered introspections, delivered through fantastical descriptions, hint at internal chaos, but Le Zahir
feels too whole, harmonious, for it to represent real disturbance.
It seems that a sense of displacement and endless searching is central to Le Zahir
; the reality it inhabits is forever incomplete, no matter how much it paints over. The album feels world-weary (exemplified in the vocals and moderate tempos), yet also abundant in bounding, youthful curiosity. “La Chute” suggests a lack of grounding, an intentional forgetfulness: “Je ne suis la souche d’aucun départ / J’ère, je plonge, j’oublie.” On a personal level, the inscrutability and evasiveness of Le Zahir
has a simpler function - it leaves the album forever intriguing, a mystery that never moves beyond the brink of being solved.
In some ways, Le Zahir
does remind me of the aches of creation - the excitement at the formation of a new idea, the frustration when that idea fails to take form outside of the mind. But the only feeling elicited that I can concretely describe is an intense, bittersweet longing; for what, exactly, I do not know. Figuring that out becomes the obsession.