Sorcier Des Glaces are a Quebecois black metal band. If you’ve been following me for awhile, then you probably know that I don’t review black metal very often. I think this is mostly to do with how hard it is for me to start writing a review. With technical/progressive stuff I can write about time signatures, chord progressions, and so on without much thought.
Black metal takes more work. This album has been in my rotation for several months, because I keep putting off writing this review. This probably makes it one of my most listened to albums of the year. Yet I’m still having a little difficulty with it.
As an overall impression, the songs have structural and sonic similarities to old school black metal like Emperor or Darkthrone (though vocally quite different). The songs have clear ideas and sections, but they are longform without traditional song structure. They tend to meander, which is a good thing in this case.
The songs evoke a dark, icy mood by feeling somewhat static with long tremolo melodic lines, but still having a turbulent urgency underneath which keeps them pushing forward. The chord progression contributes as well by changing frequently, but not following a traditional progression.
There is a clear key signature, but we never feel that we are moving towards some tonic (the “I chord”) in the progression. This makes it feel like the whole song is constantly moving. Progressing classically to the tonic would make it feel like a temporary ending until we move away again.
Despite all these old school black metal ideas, the album feels very fresh and modern. The production keeps every part of the song audible. The vocals can be heard and understood. The bass can be heard. The guitar and drums can be heard. It all feels very clean.
This is almost a negative for me. There’s a touch of dirtiness in the guitar tone, but it feels calculated. There’s a middle ground between intentionally using the worst recording equipment you can find and highly polished production, and I can’t help but feel this errs on the polished side too much.
Part of what made the old black metal so great was the organic atmosphere. It was messy and human. You can practically feel the click track on this album, making sure everyone is playing perfectly (I have no idea if they actually used one) which somewhat ruins the atmosphere they are going for.
That said, I’ve been listening to this for months and still get lost in it. I can’t imagine getting sick of this album anytime soon. I think what makes this album so good is the perfect level of complexity. At their root, the songs are elegant in their simplicity. But the melodies and solos are fairly intricate keeping things interesting after many listens.
The more I listen to it, the more it sinks in, and the more I like it. Right now it is sitting around an 8.5/10.
Here’s a sample: