Ars Moriendi – Lorsque les coeur s’assèchent
Release Date: 04/08/23
Running Time: 54:23
Review by Dark Juan
Arses. Aren’t they a wonderful thing? Not only are they something comfortable to be seated upon, but the gluteus maximus is also one of the strongest and most versatile muscles in the human body. They are also frequently very pleasant to behold, and Dark Juan would not be the first man to have decided to have gone to war for a particularly fine and well-shaped example of the posterior attached to someone attractive. While I am feeling particularly philosophical, I should mention that the only person who knows your actual personality is you. Allow me to elaborate – the you that is carried in your head is known only to you. Everyone who has ever met you carries an entirely different version of you in their head. Essentially, there’s hundreds of versions of you wandering around in the grey matter of your friends, enemies, parents, siblings, children… and every single one of those versions of you is different from the one you have and the one that everyone else is working with. Your uniqueness is enhanced by every person you interact with, but the you in their heads is a stranger to yourself. You are also the pilot of a sophisticated mechanical meat machine, with extreme mobility abilities and are able to project hard and soft power as required. However, you (your personality) are contained within a bone box. Doesn’t that just bake your noodles?
Anyway, Dark Juan is a fan of the pleasing posterior and the well-turned calf and thigh of a lady. This of course has nothing to do with what I am listening to, which is a French one man Progressive/ Atmospheric Black Metal project Ars Moriendi (The Art of Dying, fact fans) that is being all mean and moody upon the misanthropic spirit of the Platter Of Splatter™. There will be no discussion of the lyrics on this record because a) it is Black Metal and all totally fucking incomprehensible without a lyric sheet anyway and b) it is a French language record, and although I was resident in that fine country and am reasonably fluent, my poor abused brain cannot think fast enough to keep up with what is being “sung” (it is more growled or howled) in that most august language of diplomacy.
So, what are you getting with Ars Moriendi? You’re getting a classic example of why people who play Black Metal should not be allowed anywhere near a mixing desk. The production on this record is… enthusiastic. There, that’s a nice and charitable way to describe it. There are times when the record has absolute icy clarity and a cold, edged beauty and there are times when the engineer appears to have thrown his hands up in despair and permitted the music to turn into a cloying morass of noise that judders around the brainspace of the listener, bludgeoning the synapses into some kind of bruised submission – although, somewhat perversely, the guitar work remains bright and sharp regardless of what else is being turned into chunky salsa behind them.
Put simply, this one-man French Black Metal maestro plays Black Metal with an admixture of romance, not infrequent nods towards the rather more Gothic (‘Voyage Céleste’) with swirling, dark-countenanced church organs and a relaxed pace, and through the musical spectrum through to the full-throated roar and punishing tempo of Black Metal proper (‘Le vers dans le fruit’). There are touches of Shoegaze, Doom and even Industrial/ Dungeon Synth (‘Nous sommes passes’) in parts, and the music of Ars Moriendi as a whole is a beast that is constantly shifting forms and shape underneath a rigid armoured carapace, as the band moves from the super-technical Black Metal of the likes of Emperor, through the early sound of Cradle Of Filth (back when they were billing themselves as the UK’s “Only avant-garde Black Metal band”, shortly before Dani claimed they never were one…) and the more orchestral pretensions of the likes of later Dimmu Borgir (think “Death Cult Armageddon”) to the more primal end of the spectrum, like Daemonarch.
It is this pleasing lack of respect for boundaries that makes Ars Moriendi, and to be fair most of the French Metal scene, worth listening to. Although Ars Moriendi aren’t as batshit fucking mental as fellow French Black Metal practitioners Esoctrilihum, Ars Moriendi are far more atmospheric and theatrical, and dare I say, more romantic. There is a bleeding-heart emotional quality to “Lorsque les coeur s’assèchent” as a whole that adds a really interesting dynamic to the traditional cold, bleak hatred of Black Metal. There’s rage that is edged by devastation and desperation, sadness and sorrow tinged with the kind of cold fury you experience when you have been grievously wronged, and then utter emotional collapse. All of these emotions are easily carried by the music, and it is this range of expression that lifts Ars Moriendi up above the flock of average Black Metal bands getting lost in photo shoots in Finnish forests.
To sum up this (yet again) welcome sojourn into the realms of French Extreme music, Ars Moriendi have provided an album that is a difficult pleasure. The production of the record was a major bust, but I have heard far worse (I have never understood why Black Metal bands love lo-fi productions so much. Not many people enjoy the experience of listening to wasps in anechoic chambers. Make it sound proper, you corpse-painted wankers!) as it detracted from some seriously saucy Black Metal with fascinating arrangements and a stonking disregard for Black Metal purists everywhere. Dark Juan (being as he is a Sad Old Goff) really enjoyed the more Gothic elements of the record (there’s organs, choirs, altos and sopranos and heartfelt French crooning) and is of the opinion that French is the perfect language for Gothic music in the same way that German is the perfect language for Industrial. All in all, “Lorsque les coeur s’assèchent” (which translates to “When Hearts Dry Up”, the background concept chronicling when humans go from innocence to the most depraved perversities, and that liminal moment when the heart dries up and you change from human to monster) is a bit of a corker.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Le système breveté d’évaluation des éclaboussures de sang de Dark Juan, pour le bon peuple de France, un pays dans lequel je retournerai un jour, parce que je l’aime, même si votre langue est extrêmement difficile à comprendre et à parler pour Dark Juan, et encore moins à écrire…) awards Ars Moriendi 7/10 for a record that is a flawed jewel.
TRACKLISTING: (I have translated the titles for you, you good people)
01. Lorsque les coeurs s’accèchent (When Hearts Dry Up)
02. Quand tout est bruit, fureur et haine (When All Is Sound, Fury and Hate)
03. Voyage Céleste (Celestial Journey)
04. Le vers dans le fruit (The Worm In The Fruit)
05. Nous sommes passes (We Passed)
06. Le blasphemateur (The Blasphemer)
Bastien – everything.
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