AUTARCIE – Apogée. Ivresse. Agonie. (2021)REVIEW

What makes hope such an intense pleasure is the fact that the future, which we dispose of to our liking, appears to us at the same time under a multitude of forms, equally attractive and equally possible. Even if the most coveted of these becomes realized, it will be necessary to give up the others, and we shall have lost a great deal. The idea of the future, pregnant with an infinity of possibilities, is thus more fruitful than the future itself, and this is why we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in reality.” Henri-Louis Bergson, Time and Free Will

Young men and women today too often sit upon heaps of dust-covered ideals, swine-eyed and snorting deeply for answers, yearning for traditions they’ve never fully known for the sake of an unreachably romantic notion of meaningful action. Without tasking ourselves with picking through the battered chronology of today’s dystopian ‘first world’ and parsing its obviate-yet-myriad causation, the “common sense” guided individual within each of us lazes into idolatry of irretrievably obscured past events, artifacts, old ‘Gods’ and a feigned comfort away from the unforgiving chaos of present day reality; This tends to craft a brand of fantasy which is too often mistaken for sovereignty or, any sort of purpose beyond self-preservation. Eastern France based black metal duo Autarcie care less for this sort of role-playing fantasy than they do their own function as folklorists applying a history-entrenched and bloody realism to the disenfranchised self, a perspective that finds them cultivating a wandering ear for melody beyond rote classicism. This seventh full-length from the project, ‘Apogée. Ivresse. Agonie.‘, appears during an intense period of refined performance capture and compositional/narrative ambition for their artistry, set into motion within the last six or seven years and peaking with each successive release.

More directly spoken, that is to say that they weren’t a particularly distinct or original band to start and with time a voice has arisen from developments beyond the severity of purist French black metal methodology. Formed in 2006 by musician Nokturn of Dyster and several bands associated with the Civitas Maxima Sequanorum circle during the mid-2000’s which varied from depressive suicidal black metal to a common thread of early Peste Noire influence; In fact you cannot likely read a single review or mention of Autarcie‘s legacy without finding their first four albums specifically compared to ‘La Sanie des Siècles’. Don’t worry, I won’t dig through each of the other six records in this bands discography to prove lazy metal historians wrong but I would refer to my 2018 review of Autarcie‘s sixth full-length ‘Sequania‘ for a general description of the band’s history wherein ‘Groupuscule‘ (2013) was something different and ‘Sequania’ was a long-awaited step unto their own. As we step into the world of nostalgic, heroic and baleful French black metal it is important to make the distinction between glorified Gallo-Roman themes and nationalism, which should be obvious enough. Though I am not a fully effective translator here with a limited ear for the French language this album appears to follow similar era and narrative voice as that of ‘Sequania’ without politically motivated propagandizing. That said, we will have to consider the lasting musical influence of groups like Seigneur Voland to get the true heart of the increasingly fastidious melodic voice that Autarcie sports with each passing release.

If we can begin to view ‘Apogée. Ivresse. Agonie.’ as an amplification of all the of the successes of ‘Sequania’ pushed to the point of excess and grand statement, then the first evidence of this comes with opener “Nation” and its neatly written melodic verses conveying fanfare unto a slow motion battle on an enormous scale. At the ~4:35 minute mark we’re given a clear example of Nokturn preparing up front a melodic device beyond any set expectations, using keyboards/synth in a fashion akin to Lustre during this surreal three minute plateau of the piece. Inspiring as this is to start it sets an expectation of atmospheric tendency the rest of the album generally shirks, opting for streams of melodious riffs and often folkish phrasing which today have more in common with Darkenhöld, Ungfell and perhaps Aorlhac when we turn our ear towards “France Profonde” and “Le bardit des hardis”. Here statement, extensive vocal patterns, and extended guitar arrangements with slow reveals become the reward of hours of close-eared listening for detail. The pieces that are most directed by clear and circularly revealed melodic voicing are nonetheless what most listeners will take away from initial listens with “Gladio vivere, gladio morietur” being the most instantly impactful, rolling back into the strong introductory voicing of “Nation” and sustaining this austerity towards an even more complete statement. That said, it is the same general three act structure for these songs where the reprise of the original melody is given some smart variation upon reintroduction. Fans of pagan black metal will find a lot of obvious appeal in this style of arrangement for its appeal to patient and easy revealed melodic devices. The strongest yet not at all obviously shining piece to start is, for my own taste, the centerpiece “Regnum Francorum” a song which may not capture the entire oeuvre of the full listen but does act as a sort of perfect theme to connect what Autarcie have always done and how much they’ve developed that ideal toward this shining peak.

If ‘Apogée. Ivresse. Agonie.’ was not as sentimental and dramatically phrased as it is, I am not sure a ~56 minute album in this style could’ve held my attention otherwise. Commonplace as forced streams of stoic beauty are in the hands of so many rote black metal artists today, the biggest compliment I could give Autarcie is that I believe they’ve felt these pieces, and conveyed something earnestly spirited within these compositions rather than machining them out in a practice space as a necro pastime. Since I do feel this is an instance of iteration upon ‘Sequania’ with its own small bit of innovation beyond the artists existing sphere, my recommendation is slightly higher than the prior album. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (76/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Apogée. Ivresse. Agonie.
LABEL(S):Purity Through Fire
RELEASE DATE:April 30th, 2021
BUY:Purity Through Fire Store
GENRE(S):Black Metal

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