SAINTE MARIE DES LOUPS – Funérailles de feu (2020)REVIEW

Murdered for the madness his post-traumatic opulence dictated, our protagonist swings with the momentum of death’s seizuring scythe. Fiendishly looting his pockets like worms, the spindly fingers of witch-hungry Catholics would attest to and remind all of these impossible crimes he’d been accused of for generations. Noosed at thirty five years old, the trajectory of our supposed Barbebleue (eh, Gilles de Rais) would find him a teenaged war tactician, a decorated general who’d liberate thousands, a visionary of outsized stage production, a dabbler in the demonic arts, a serial killer of children, and (eventually) a sainted grave pregnant women would visit to encourage breastmilk production. This crooked turn within the war hero’s legacy becomes a dark, far-fetched fable of a young noble faceted cruelly in time as the Hundred Years War peaked in the early 15th century; To have spent a lifetime at the apex of a too-long battle surely traumatized the young fellow into retirement but the church and his own family wouldn’t turn on de Rais until he’d begin spending exorbitant amounts of their fortune and legacy on what should be considered his great work, Le Mistère du Siège d’Orléans, an austere play featuring over six hundred parts and nearly two hundred speaking roles. Spending his wealth was considered a crime worthy of decree’d exile among nearby territories and providing free food, drink and hospitality to all involved was considered foully repugnant. Painted as a tyrant and accused of summoning a demon (named Barron) for a literal “deal with the devil” contract already inked and in hand, we touch upon a fantastic and imaginative series of events that are implausible. Accusations of demon worship and prolific murderous pederasty might seem uncommonly graphic but they represent a trend, a typical calling card of the Holy Inquisition, an affront to redistribute any defiant lord’s wealth to the Catholic religious rule over France. The eccentric noble’s considerable wealth and numerous castles were seized after he’d been sentenced to death which’d been used to solidify favor with pious noblemen favored by the Duke of Brittany. Hindsight offers an all too common glint in the eye of a truly murderous religion that’d snuffed yet another young man of fiery passion for the arts who’d shown nothing but dutiful favor to his land and his people. Haunting daimonian spectre, the treachery of the pious, youthful ambition, and legendary artistic extravagance in medieval France all set us amongst the stinking clangor of the late 14th century castle where the arts fill the halls and the smell of burning flesh renders us readily prepared for the second full-length from French black metal trio Saint Marie des Loups. Growing in size and refining as a blade of gnashing, pridefully dark art ‘Funérailles de feu’ represents a crystalline example of raw earliest second wave black metal’s reactionary birth whilst applying three generations of French black metal disillusionment beyond in the form of increasingly melodious yet punk-jagged tirades.

As a solo project from French musician O. aka Fossoyeur (Chambre Froide, Meurtrières) the Sainte Marie des Loups experience represented one of many hidden gems of the late in life legacy of Fallen Empire Records, an album indebted to ‘Burzum’ and ‘Under a Funeral Moon’ beyond its raw affect with a style of semi-melodic black metal clearly influenced (again) by several generations of reckless and revenant black metal circles within the last few decades of French black metal. Their debut (‘Sainte Marie des Loups‘, 2018) was well celebrated but coined as formative beyond a few obviously great pieces (see: “Sermons Sanglants”) that’d undeniably stood out. One could glean shades of ‘Taste our German Steel’-era Moonblood and certainly Seigneur Voland from those pieces and their minimal but well-designed “raw” black metal style but as Sainte Marie des Loups have expanded their collaboration we find a much clearer representation of the sophisticated melodic ideas these influences suggest. As an aside, if you’re looking for something about three shades of red more raw, check out his other black metal project Chambre Froide, their ‘Rouge Chapelles‘ LP is brilliant. Even if the sound on ‘Funérailles de feu’ is not glaringly raw by yesterday or today’s standards there are quirks to the production and render, such as the bass guitar’s extra-dimensional presence, that ensure the immersion of raw black metal without sounding intentionally naïve or obscured for the sake of style. This means we can cross out sketchy comparisons to Torgeist or Kristallnacht this time around and seek the stately rigor of Aorlhac, Autarcie, Neptrecus (‘Ars Gallica’) and perhaps Osculum Infame sans keyboards in examination of the medieval spears that Saint Marie des Loups thrusts about on this second album. If these bands are unfamiliar just imagine ‘Under a Funeral Moon’ with menacing French melodicism fully motivating the riffs, nothing as complex or moving as our beloved Cénotaphe but still a grand evocation of their own punkish abandon.

“Anciens Serpens” is the right sort of opener to communicate the rough edged ‘fuck you’ of this fundamental black metal urge that drives much of ‘Funérailles de feu’. This is the ruddy sustenance of the listening experience, the bread and ale of second wave black metal tradition circa 1992 Scandinavia, though the mood quickly shifts in subsequent songs the tradition is certainly always present. “Meurtrières” incorporates slower movements, subtle keyboard guidance, and our first real hint of the odd bass guitar tone on this record. Resembling the strum of a contrabass set a hundred feet back and pile atop with the din of at least three guitar tracks the bass presence for the bulk of this album takes some serious work to focus on as it dips in and out of the regal yet harried guitar riffing. The title track should justify many of the stylistic comparisons made thus far via its hypnotic, circular riffing and simple presentation. The bigger takeaway I have in reflection upon this opening salvo of three pieces is an emphasis upon the atmosphere and sound feeling ancient and not so blatantly imitative. This won’t be track-by-track here but, I couldn’t skip over the obviate strength achieved between “Dans les yeux de Meduse” and the mastery that is “Interdit et oublié”, my favorite pairing of songs on the album. This entrance onto Side B with “Interdit et oublié” offers some key vitality and interest to the full listen via its swings between pensive existentialist tonality and triumphant aggression. At this point the mention of Aorlhac and Autarcie should make a bit more sense, we’ve got deepest traditional threads running foundational cables throughout what is essentially an enthusiastic take on current French black metal renaissance. Or, if that means nothing to you, we’re gifted a raw and ravenously scourged sound bolstered via beauteous regalia-waving riffs. Ugliness and beauty arranged in remarkably harmonious treachery.

After roughly three perplexed listens, ten enlightened listens, and several more soul-drying runs through the album’s easily repeated wealth a committed examination of ‘Funérailles de feu’ finds it thrilling if not limited in scope. Not that all things need to be gigantic great works but rather my criticism stems from hearing seeds for bigger ideas beyond the raw and very classic style of Sainte Marie des Loups, the cells of this evolution have not yet begun to diffuse into a fully unique species but there is the sense that this leap forward is merely one key step of many as the project’s ideals fully materialize thier skeletal & visceral intent here. Still, I’d not discount the enjoyable weave between triumphant strides and the menacing creeps that define this album. Overall a reasonably memorable record with many striking artistic decisions made. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Funérailles de feu
LABEL(S):Amor Fati Productions,
Extraconscious Records
RELEASE DATE:November 25th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black Metal

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