Review Summary: Allelic continues to stride forwards.
When considering metal that blends blackened soundscapes and folk tones it’s difficult not to use Agalloch as an example. As fans we spend our time measuring modern efforts against the likes of The Mantle
or Ashes Against The Grain
, newer listeners can often become quite jaded, lost in their own preconceptions of what this type of music ‘should sound’ like. These days, we look to more modern contemporaries like Andy Marshall’s Saor, Malo Civelli’s Cân Bardd, or Falls Of Rauros to distinguish just how these normally conflicting styles not only cohabitate, but redefine atmospheric black metal. For Allelic, whose lone member blends black metal’s more vintage majesty into thriving folk sounds, À Contre Vent
is both an excellent expansion of the debut’s style and a worthy addition to some already reputable acts within the genre. Interestingly, À Contre Vent
is a concept record, built from a foundation of a beast’s relationship with its surroundings. This beast, a wolf, has all the pangs of life shown in Allelic’s music by matter of personification. Something that is very human indeed.
Jovial folky notes announce the opening of “À l'anaphase de nos chemins” as light acoustic strumming combines with graceful woodwind melodies. The combination is simple, each component layered gently on top of the other until the listener is greeted by the same wonderful, multi-faceted, genre-bending soundscapes found in the debut. Distant vocals intertwine with up-tempo ringing chords, but the track’s melodies are meticulously phrased between blast beats, acoustic passages and tremolo notes. In fact, the album’s production does as much to lift the music as the instrumental efforts. In line with black metal’s more vintage renown, À Contre Vent
isn’t as sterile production wise as some of today’s more modern releases, but it’s also not unintelligibly raw. Each note, cymbal crash, anguished scream and steely twang of the acoustic guitar is heard clearly, given the no-frills and humble mix. Importantly, the listener is neither brick-walled by the strong black metal aesthetics that drive the record, nor are they greeted by an overbearing display of folk influences. Instead, the album’s two intertwining parts dance together, never missing a step or crushing a partner’s toe all the while.
Despite the album’s central theme of nature-praising folk and the conceptual medium of a wolf taking only what it needs from life, it’s the natural progression and instrumental prowess of À Contre Vent
that reinforces the music, rather than an occasionally unapproachable concept. “À l'anaphase de nos chemins’s” latter half is but one example: birdsong and minimalistic trilling breathes life into the song’s second half and the atmospheric moods turn hopeful, with a cheery few guitar lines dominating the mix. Even the light Opethian similarities that introduce “L'éveil et la contemplation” meander around an intertwined use of acoustic and electric melody. It’s a haunting experience that sweeps through moments of hope, happiness and sombre reflection without conforming to any mood singularity, but its familiarity outside of Allelic is welcoming. The album allows itself moments of respite between sections, adding extra instruments only when the mood calls for it. Whether it’s the wrapping of knuckles against a guitar frame, the ungentle screams or roars from a deep chasm or the ritualistic group chanting that lightens “Des âmes tissées sur Terre”, everything here has its place - even the occasional harmonica line.
Similarly to Allelic’s debut, À Contre Vent
is quite accessible overall. Given the album’s forty minute run-time and that three of the record’s four tracks have a near ten minute length, Allelic’s latest has an almost seasonal feel to it, tying back to its theme of nature. The album continues the successful patterns found in the act’s debut, expanding on The Smoke of Atavistic Fires
and solidifying a brand of well connected, accessible, atmospheric black metal. However some listeners will feel detached in regards to the album’s conceptual nuance and native French languages, but the atmosphere throughout is unmistakable. À Contre Vent
is a lush listening experience from the more tranquil “À l'anaphase de nos chemins” to the wholesome, devilish fanaticism of “Des âmes tissées sur Terre” and the joyous jig found in the track’s latter half. Allelic continues to combine two contrasting musical worlds into an almost seamless display of compositional dexterity.