My long and pretentious review of Peste Noire’s ‘L’Ordure à l’état Pur’

Artist:  Peste Noire
Release: L’Ordure à l’état Pur (album)
Record company: La Mesnie Herlequin
Year: 2011
Language: French
Genre: Paturain Metal

While Peste Noire effectively reinvents itself with every album, there is a remarkable consistency to be found in the track record of this controversial black metal band. Ever since the Frenchies released Folkfuck Folie in 2007 and abandoned the rather orthodox (though not any less brilliant) black metal they had played up until then, the band seems to succeed in consistently splitting the fanbase in two with every new release. The outspoken and cynical frontman Famine has, in one of his rare interviews, even admitted that this was precisely the aim of Folkfuck Folie. According to him, this successor to the band’s 2006 debut album La Sanie des siècles – Panégyrique de la dégénérescence was a successful attempt at chasing away all the “trendies”. The third album, Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor (2009), consciously or not, continued this trend and managed to surprise everyone with its satirical mix of elementary black metal and rancid rock ‘n’ roll.

Ironically, the recently released L’Ordure à l’état Pur is not very surprising in this respect, exactly because it sees the band head into an entirely new direction yet again. The result is an album that is near impossible to classify genre-wise and hard to compare to the style of any other band. This fourth full-length is still a typical Peste Noire album, though, because despite some seemingly farfetched elements ranging from zouk beats to French chansons and gypsy music, L’Ordure à l’état Pur still offers bucketloads of the band’s characteristic French cynicism, which sardonically yet subtly ridicules absolutely everything.

From the very first song, not only the musical but also the lyrical conventions of the black metal genre are crushed beneath Famine’s Dr Martens boots. The lyrics don’t resort to stereotypical, prepubescent (Dimmu Borgir-like) wailing about drawing pentagrams or hiking through the forest after dusk (be sure to come back for dinner!), but instead provide a near light-hearted reference to the hate for France and its inhabitants (a sentiment popularised by decerebrated Americans, no doubt): “Salut c’est nous! Les durs de la France / Nourris au vin, au Cochonou / Les seuls toujours pas à genoux / Les gros chauvins bouffeurs d’ail rance…”[1] It doesn’t take long before this mocking attitude starts being reflected by the music, when, during a rather long interlude, an accordeon takes us to the ridiculously stereotypical France that you always see in French cheese commercials.

Kommando Paturain

This immediately raises the point that it can be very handy to, like yours truly, at least know some high school French, as the true meaning and character of the music are bound to fly over the heads of people who haven’t a clue what the lyrics are about. As such, it is possible that some reviews appearing in Anglosaxon publications will place the experimental tendencies of the music outside of their context, seeing as it is tempting to write them off as experimenting for the sake of it, or being ‘cooky’ under the monniker of artistic freedom. And even though intentional weirdness may very well be part of what made this album so batshit insane, there is a meaning behind most of it. A meaning that might even be a tad more serious than the comical character of the most songs would, at first, suggest.

The song Cochon Carotte et les sœurs Crotte, for example, utilises tons of electronical elements, with Famine even going as far as incorporating zouk beats. However, this should not be seen as a vain attempt to add some creativity to the usual formula by means of resorting to industrial elements (like the new, desastrous Morbid Angel album, for example). In the case of Peste Noire, the reason behind using these elements is of a somewhat opportunistic nature, for in Cochon Carotte et les sœurs Crotte, they refer to the present-day street culture of France. The lyrics reflect this and contain a plethora of intentional spelling mistakes, SMS-style language and the bizarre anti-feminine attitude that one would identify with street culture. The song is effectively parodising modern French street culture as Famine perceives it, a vision that seems to refer to an obviously cynical quote from the (legendary) interview with Famine on Diabolical Conquest: “I am very fond of nihilist rap with lyrics dealing with black supremacy and the white sexual slave trade, now that’s my kind of thing.”[2] The title of the album, which roughly translates as “Garbage in its pure state”, could not be more appropiate.

In the abovementioned interview, Famine’s contempt towards southern, Mediterranean culture and his subsequent preference for the cold northern cultural hemisphere were also discussed. This philosophy serves as the main theme for the 20 minute epic J’avais rêvé du Nord. Like the previous track, this song starts with an electronic beat and even features samples of gunshots, giving the first few minutes of the composition a sleazy industrial touch. Rapidly enough, though, the band starts playing a borderline cheesy chanson-inspired chorus before switching to the more traditional black metal style that Peste Noire became ‘famous’ for. Here, too, the relation between the lyrics and the music is rather clear, seeing as the initial description of the hated Mediterranean culture is accompanied by industrial beats, gun shots and fragments from news reports about anti-white racists, while the segment about the ‘pure’ northern culture is supported musically by black metal, a genre that is of course mainly identified with Northern Europe. It’s almost as if the song, by invoking the black metal, cleanses itself of the undesirable elements that are described initially. It’s another example of the intricate synchrony between lyrics and music that, while making this album so special, can easily be missed if you fail to understand the lyrics, or at least the concept of the band. Consequently, a song like the aforementioned Carotte et les sœurs Crotte could indeed seem like superficial experimentation.

Du pain, du vin, du cul.

The increased profoundness of Peste Noire’s disgust towards the modern age is the most clearly expressed on the album’s closer, La condi hu (i.e. La condition humaine / The condition/state of man). Lyrically, this song starts out with the listing of all kinds of horrid diseases, such as aids, typhus and malaria. Later in the song, phenomenon such as MTV, Big Brother, the Republic and even humanity as a whole are added to the list of unpleasantries. Near the end of the song, Audrey S. reads out loud what seems to be a description of what aids does to the body, with its relation to the present state of the world of course not being difficult to imagine given the band’s perception of it. As a result, the music carries a significantly darker, almost desperate atmosphere, which stands in shrewd contrast with the clownesque free-spiritedness that dominates most of the earlier songs.

On La condi hu it is also confirmed that Peste Noire has at its disposition some very capable musicians. Especially in this song the (fretless) bass, played by the returned Indria (he was absent on Ballade), is used with an amount of creativity that is uncommon in the extremer branches of metal music. Indria’s authentic style, which is above all characterised by a high amount of different variations on the same theme and the avid use of high notes, was already present on previous albums (just listen to the opening riff of La Fin del Secle), but on La condi hu it really becomes apparent that we are dealing with a rather talented bass player here. This is also promoted by the crystal clear production of L’Ordure in comparison to Ballade.

Naturally, however, the star of the show is frontman Famine, who, being the band’s main (or rather, only) driving force, is yet again responsible for all of the album’s lyrics and compositions. Apart from that, he really proves more than ever that he’s one of the best vocalists of the genre, as he manages to put an extraordinary amount of character and passion in his voice, something which still seems to be a problem for a lot of black metal singers (Celestia, anyone?). Because of this, the aforementioned carnavalesque element and the overall insane nature of the album are transmitted all the better. As expected, Famine’s typical guitar work is a joy yet again, both in composition and performance. And while I could dedicate several more paragraphs to this, it will suffice to say that there’s little you can do wrong if you manage to play a black metal riff over a zouk/reggaeton beat.

As is usual with Peste Noire albums, L’Ordure à l’état Pur has a few session contributions as well. Audrey S. is back for the clean vocal parts, and the new drummer, who is credited under the noble title Vicomte Chtedire de Kroumpadis [3] takes a rather simple but effective approach that is not too different from Winterhalter’s work on the first two albums. There are also quite a few other contributions in the areas of backing vocals and session instruments such as the accordeon and the trombone, and Famine himself even plays the dulcimer, a traditional string instrument from the Appalachians. All in all, the music on this album comes across as a lot more professional than before. It was no secret that Peste Noire is and has been home to some talented musicians, but the intentional simplicity and sloppiness on especially the last two albums occasionally managed to mislead some of the less aware listeners in this respect.

Romper Stomper ist Krieg

Despite the seemingly fragmented structure of some of the compositions, the biggest quality of L’Ordure à l’état Pur is still its completeness and consistency. The music and lyrics go hand in hand, the compositions are very strong and the performance and band concept are as solid as a rock. Even the CD box aptly reflects the nature of the album. The booklet, for example, is full of idiotic band photos and brilliant illustrations, varying from pest doctors with dicks for noses to a combination of the logo of the far right party Front National and a bastardised version of the cow mascot of cheese brand La Vache qui rit, with the acronym ‘FN’ being replaced by ‘PN’. In reference to the stereotypically French elements present on the album, the CD has a layout akin to that of a random French cheese brand, giving the term ‘cheesy’ a whole new meaning.

L’Ordure à l’état Pur is the ultimate evidence that an album can (or should) be so much more than an arbitrary collection of MP3s on a computer. This is exactly why at least a chunk of the reviews you’ll find on the internet will not be sincere or to be taken seriously. If you download the album and give it 3 spins before you voice your opinion (or rather: give it x out of 5 stars), you will never be able to capture the essence of the music, or rather the album. Contrarily, this means that the more you delve into this album, the more appreciation you will likely harvest for the work in question. (Musical) Purists will perhaps criticise Peste Noire for its unorthodox approach, but let us not forget that the original intention of black metal was to break all conventions, both musically and socially. And in this respect, Peste Noire is the most ‘true’ of all modern bands in the genre.

L’Ordure à l’état Pur can be bought at: La Mesnie Herlequin

(Senseless) Line-up:
La sale Famine de Valfunde (DJ Famine) – vocals, guitars, dulcimer, effects, beats
Indria – bass, fretless bass
Audrey – clear vocals
Engwar – cello, timbales, vocals on the intro La condi hu
Miss Peste Nègre – accordeon
Rachid de France – trombone
Lulu l’ermite – guest vocals on J’avais rêvé du Nord and Sale Famine von Valfoutre
Seigneur Arawn – guest vocals on J’avais rêvé du Nord
L’Atrabilaire Maldo – Occitan invocations on Casse, Pêches, Fractures et Traditions

Tracklist:
1. Casse, Pêches, Fractures et Traditions (10:48)
2. Cochon Carotte et les sœurs Crotte (8:28)
3. J’avais rêvé du Nord (20:26)
4. Sale Famine von Valfoutre (11:32)
5. La condi hu (9.09)

Total running time: 60:25

Foot notes:
[1] My own attempt at a translation: “Hey, it’s us! The strong ones of France / Nourished on wine and pig sausage / The only ones not yet on their knees / The big, chauvinist eaters of disgusting garlic.”
[2] http://www.diabolicalconquest.com/Webzine/InterviewInfo.aspx?InterviewID=28
[3] If you stand in front of the mirror and say this three times without stuttering, he’ll appear behind you.

Update 15/03/13:
– Spaced out text to make it more readable.
– Replaced references to dubstep with ‘zouk'; I admit I am not well educated on terrible music genres.
– Added link to shop to make not downloading this album more easy.
– General grammar/spelling corrections.

15 thoughts on “My long and pretentious review of Peste Noire’s ‘L’Ordure à l’état Pur’

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  3. I found your review while I was searching for French reviewers who understood that album instead of bashing it from a ridiculous “TRVE BLACK METALLER” p.o.v.
    I am quite impressed with your review, considering how the vast majority of the black metal scene in France did not understand a thing about this album. (I’m French)
    This is the best review I’ve read, and the only one that shared my comprehension of this album. And it was written by a non-native French speaker nevertheless !
    The meaning of this album gets stronger when you think about the fact that among us native speakers there are people who did not catch the link between the music, the lyrics and did not even understand why “Cochon Carotte…” was written in sms language. There’s even people who thought that it was a song that reflected Peste Noire’s misoginy !! When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Most French reviewers did not even understand the flow going on between Ballade and Ordure, that there is an actual transition. “Casse Peche Fracture et Traditions” the first song of the album, begins on a melody that could have been part of any songs from “Ballade cuntre lo anemi Francor”, followed by a sample of “Les Visiteurs”, a french comedy about a knight from medieval times being taken into our future, the knight in the intro sample saying “How disgraceful, where did the nature and forests go, everything is ugly, there isn’t an hectare (of land) to hunt, the air is stifling, IT STINKS!” and here we go, back to our time and the French stereotypes. But the paradox is, that stereotype and the people from rural areas who still live up to a part of those are the only thing that remains of “France” since the people living in the cities lost their culture and became apatrid in every sense of the word, the only thing French they have left is the language itself, which is dying because of a lack of education anyway (thus the SMS in track 2). Thus condi hu, closing the album with no hope for humanity remaining.

    I enjoy reading your blog and will follow your next reviews.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed my review. The truth is that my French is actually very poor. I have a decent receptive comprehension because I still remember some of the basic French I got in high school, and I speak Spanish and a bit of Catalan, so I can mostly get a good general idea of what’s going on in a text. This is why my review was a bit risky, as I didn’t know if I interpreted everything correctly and inevitably missed out on a lot of references (such as the one you mentioned from the comedy). But given the response I’ve had so far from French speakers like yourself, I think I got pretty close at least. I indeed find it disappointing to see that a lot of reviewers (from whatever nationality) just focus on the musical aspect and interpret the album as nothing more than some circus-like experimentation session. Or worse, that they indeed label this album as racist or sexist because they took the lyrics out of their context. You’d think that ‘salope’ being spelled in like 7 different ways in “Cochon Carotte…” is a pretty strong indication of something special going on. But as we sometimes say in Holland, some people don’t look further than the length of their own nose. “L’Ordure” is quite a fascinating album as you keep discovering new stuff even when you’ve listened to it a hundred times already (and it wouldn’t surprise me if I actually have). It’s really as deep as a novel, and it’s a shame a lot of people fail to acknowledge that.

      Anyway, thanks for your reply. I do not update this site often because, as you can see, I like to put some thought into my reviews, not to mention that I write all of my reviews in Dutch first and then translate them into English, meaning I have pretty much twice the work. But this site will remain active, so be sure to check back in once in a while.

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