PASSÉISME – Eminence (2021)REVIEW

If freedom of the will were presupposed, every human action would be an inexplicable miracle — an effect without a cause. And if one is bold enough to imagine such a liberum arbitrium indifferentiae, he will soon realize that in this effort the understanding is really at a standstill; it has no form with which to think such a thing. For the principle of sufficient reason, the principle of thoroughgoing determination and dependence of phenomena on one another, is the most universal form of our cognitive faculty, which, according to the difference of its objects, itself takes on different forms.” Arthur Schopenhauer, Essay on the Freedom of the Will

Unfounded arrogance, bruised artisan standards, and the decline of society’s ethical and moral traditions should sound familiar enough to any fellow arriving upon adulthood at the turn of any century within the last two thousand years, stewing within this self-imposed fin de siècle syndrome as the Christian-fed livestock of the world raise yet another spittle covered finger to the wind and feel change, some false measure of progress, a-coming beyond our fated decline by their hands. Ennui is perhaps the most perpetual symptom shared amongst the technology and self-obssessed prole of the last twenty years as civilization swells to bursting point, and this only makes the slide down our muddy slope towards tangible societal decline and death on a massive scale that much easier to see. The angriest among us are rarely austere, bog-standard corpulence and light cultural interests being the most common affect beyond a complete disregard for education and community. What sends intelligent young men regretting inborn status within civilization itself in such increasing numbers is likely what pushes them to make angered yet beautifully austere music in rare yet glorious fashion, just as that of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia-based trio Passéisme, a rejection of the lowest standards set for human life within unsustainable civilization. ‘Eminence‘ is less a statement of personal superiority but rather a symbolists eye and ear for a better way of viewing ourselves and maintaining valuable interaction with others. Within the screaming melodic intensity of this regal yet venomously presented black metal album we are ungracefully hammered with the artists version of absolute truth or, at least a very convincing ear for regal absurdism.

This passage that Passéisme offers cannot be mistaken for nostalgia, for better days or, a love for any certain land but a need to press oneself upon the highest standards of modern ‘underground’ melodic black metal today and present their own passion for the elegance of Québécois black metal, French “medieval” or “chivalric” black metal and the very small niche where they collude best. The trio intend to contribute to this sound for the sake of a passion for the style and the glorious arrogance and austerity of many similar acts. Véhémence is the most obvious influence or, stylistic match, for the neatly arranged lead-driven style that Passéisme brings to this debut full-length, though they’re entirely uninterested in keyboards or various accoutrement one would typically associate with what I consider post-Forteresse enlightenment. Not to mention all of this comes a bit unexpected from the folks behind bands like Wombripper, and 7 H. Target who are unlikely allies from “big city” western Russia. They’d only slightly sounded like a death metal band on their first demo tape back in 2019, ‘Austerity Parade‘, for the sake of their drummer’s impressive hammering style but they’d also been showing a bit of Necropole around the edges in terms of vocals, feeding some authenticity to their classic French-Canadian fusion sensibility within their guitar arrangements. Although it makes sense to point towards groups like Délétère, Sühnopfer, and even Aorlhac in description of this style, when all are set beside one another Passéisme lean particularly “brutal” in terms of pacing and their vocals, which feature as an almost hardcorish balk on ‘Eminence’. It is an impassioned study of this niche and for most fans of this style the mere mention of Véhémence should send you racing to purchase and enjoy this album, you can pretty much cut away now and tear into it. Where I’ve personally run into difficulty in conveying the singular appeal of this album is this sense that it is an addition, or, iteration upon a certain style which aims for ambitiously technical melody-slinging rather than the atmospheric weight that many similar bands bring. It lacks some of the tragic yet defiant soul that comes naturally to the French-adjacent mindset.

Or, if you’re of the mindset “Fuck the soul and all similar snobbery, meatsack.” and you’re up for something familiar yet made turbulent in style then there is more to grasp onto here in terms of Passéisme‘s fairly simple aphorisms for regal and elite living as well as a plethora of stunning melodic black metal spectacle to observe within this fireworks show of a record. My personal favorite moment is unsurprisingly neck-deep in the album’s portal as the 10+ minute closing track, “Chant for Enlightenment”, finishes presenting its long-winded and gloriously complete melodic statement within the first four minutes of the piece and takes a break to let the acoustic guitars wander about, reaching an almost jazz or chamber-music feeling as it traipses towards a complete stop, then a kick back into the lead melody with a roar and electrifying guitar performance. This is more of a Sognametal moment than expected based on the rest of the album and I’d generally appreciate the use of this simple dynamic to shake up the screaming wall of beauteous noise that the bulk of the album represents, which finds the band fiddling through lovely harmonized and lead-driven pieces at an anxietous speed.

I wouldn’t intentionally downplay the intensity of this album since, I’m almost keen to suggest that is its primary appeal, but perhaps the goal is too often a reach for a certain standard of extremity when a song might otherwise call for an easier hand. On the other hand, Passéisme haven’t wasted a second getting their major hooks into the ear within seconds of each song beginning regardless of the hyper-blasted zip of the first several pieces or the more easy ride of “Chant for Insolence” and, the one piece I’d found myself drawn to repeatedly, “Chant for Harvest”. This screaming tarantella of the reaper and sowers presents a juxtaposition which my ear couldn’t capture all at once, wherein a jaunty and ringing folkish black metal melody cranes above via the guitar work yet, the vocal lead roars out brutish gusts of what is penetrative hardcore aggression (group shouts and all) which land “off” when set beside some of the more angular rhythmic guitar work that serves as transitions between points. The result is a scene that finds a brute shouting in the midst of a regal inferno, less a tragic spectacle and more an surrealistic vision that survives by sheer charisma. What’d been repulsive to my ear to start soon became the central appeal of ‘Eminence’ as a whole for my own taste — Its scramble for higher ground initially appears impossible ’til they land upon firmament in the end. So, even if I’d landed upon the album to start thinking it’d had no real meaning or, purpose in mind countless cycles through its idyllic precepts and blasted intensity found a struggle up the ladder rather than a tired gaze from atop. They’ve put in some fine work here and it makes for a repeatable if not familiar trip. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (76/100).

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Antiq Records
RELEASE DATE:June 11th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Melodic Black Metal

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