Diabolus vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo!

Artist Peste Noire
Release: Folkfuck Folie
Record Company: De Profundis
Year: 2007
Language: French
Genre: Diseases That Do Not Need Curing

Punk is dead. What once started as a more or less sincere revolt against commercialised rock has now been reduced to conventional guitar pop with light distortion and lyrics so politically correct and balanced that they would even sound fake in a presidential debate. Meanwhile, hiphop has turned into a laugh as well. Even though classic acts such as N.W.A. and Public Enemy may have shocked the world of milky white p.c. assholes a long time ago, hiphop has since been accepted by the establishment and is even utilised excessively in futile attempts indoctrinate the youth, which of course results in unintentional comedy more often than not.

The only thing these kids will ever blow up is a rubber johnny.

With this in mind, it is not wholly surprising that Peste Noire has been successfully pissing off a considerable part of the black metal audience for several years now. Because even though black metal has already been partially ruined by bad actors with crappy facepaint who pretend to worship the devil, Peste Noire still embraces the anarchist spirit of this musical current, that has always captured my interest due to its disregard for conventions in the first place. While the debut album, La Sanie des siècles – Panégyrique de la dégénérescence, was already a masterpiece that, furthermore, introduced some of the band’s (lyrical) leitmotifs, the subsequent Folkfuck Folie album indefinitely put the band on the map as what might be the most rebellious, unconventional act in the genre.

See? I told you so.

That it has always been the intention of not just Folkfuck Folie, but the band in general to create such an atmosphere, seems to have escaped the minds of many people, despite the fact that the philosophy of the band was already formulated quite clearly as early as in the demo days. The introduction of an early version of “Le Mort Joyeux”, for example, says the following, based on the work À Rebours (Against the Flow) by Joris-Karl Huysmans (click on the text to listen to the fragment):

“Au rebours du sens commun, du sens moral, de la raison, de la nature, telle est cette musique qui coupe comme un rasoir, mais un rasoir empoisonné, sur les platitudes ineptes et impies d’une société putréfiée de matérialisme. La secte Peste Noire est l’émanation d’une âme malade d’infini dans une société qui ne croît plus qu’aux choses finies. Arrivé à la dernière limite que les sensations puissent atteindre, et toujours affamé de sensations nouvelles. Prendre la vie à rebours est le seul parti qu’ils leurs restent pour y trouver quelque goût et quelque saveur. Et ils le prennent, ce parti de la vie à rebours, ils le prennent avec cet hymne baudelairien, empli de fiel. Le mort joyeux!”
(N.B. Seeing as I do not want to rape this fragment with an own attempt at a translation, I’ll gladly refer you to Google Translate.)

What’s important here is the fragment about the searching and finding of “quelque goût et quelque saveur” – whatever flavour – for this is indeed the essence of the band. Clichéd as it may sound, the band’s oeuvre essentially is a journey through the dark side of the human mind, pushing all kinds of buttons until disgust starts creeping towards the surface. In this sense, it is hard to tell whether those who detest this album have understood nothing or everything about it. Because while some of the more sensitive souls undoubtedly gave up on the album because they expected what Famine himself has branded “candlelight supper black metal”[1], the eventual goal of the album might just be to be despised. All songs sound thoroughly unpleasant, unrefined and unsettling: as if it were the goal of the album to leave a figurative taste of shit in your mouth. It’s that dirty, raw and disgusting.

The family-friendly version of PN: Rage Against The Famine.

As is the case on the debut album, Famine has used a selection of poems for his lyrics, alongside his own writings. The context of raunchiness makes it as if some of these poems truly are reborn. In “La Fin del Secle”, for example, a fragment from the medieval epic La chanson de Roland is used as lyric, with the emphasis being put on the apocalyptic sentiment resulting from the death of knight Roland. And as such, each lyric, whether it was written by Famine or taken from a poem, puts emphasis on another sinister element, ironically resulting in a rather ‘colourful’ anthology of death and depravity that drags the listener deeper into the downward spiral of madness that so characterises this album. It’s the ultimate proof that a text can be separated from its author, and be revindicated within the right context. The final result of all this is a chaotic, but at the same time paradoxically consistent exercise of total insanity. This is all the more emphasised by elements such as the sound fragment of playwright and actor Antonin Artaud, who, with his incomprehensible screaming (recorded in 1947), manages to approach the sound of the band posthumously.

Perhaps not entirely appropiately, the highlight of this release might just be the album closer, “Paysage Mauvais”, a track that was originally intended for the split EP with Horna. The screeching, high-pitched guitars; the icy, possessed screaming and the high tempo succeed in making this song into a true incarnation of the descent into madness that was already described in the first song. The 12 tracks on this album are, both musically and lyrically, a crazy ride no matter what way you look at it. The listener is actually being tested, something which a lot of other black metal bands really should do, but mostly don’t. Fortunately, Folkfuck Folie is the exception to this rule, almost as if it were punk that’s still alive.


On a related note, Peste Noire is one of the few bands in the genre that can still be called truly satanic. Not satanic in the sense of the non-existent baby-sacrificing cult of devil worshippers you only see in Hollywood movies, nor the libertarian Ayn Rand-worshipping hippies led by the inspirational though deceased stand-up comedian Anton LaVey. No: satanic as in the purposeful application of aesthetic values to ‘evil’, without forgetting that ‘evil’ is an exceptionally dynamic concept that largely depends on perspective. It is no wonder, then, that Famine, at the start of the demo version of “Retour de Flamme” shouted the words “Diabolus vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo!” (“May the devil be with you, and your whole spirit!”), words that would later be repeated in “Laus Tibi Domine” and the album version of “Phalènes et pestilence – Salvatrice averse”. Peste Noire is possessed music. All things dirty, unwanted, despised and decayed come floating to the surface on this record, not unlike an ulcerous plague bile (no pun intended). The aforementioned Antonin Artaud said not without reason that curing a disease is a crime. And for this and many other reasons, I hope that this Plague will drag a trail of death and decay across Europe for many years to come.

Laudate, pueri, Dominum!

Line-up:
Famine – vocals, guitars, tambourine, compositions/lyrics
Winterhalter – drums, tambourine
Indria – bass guitar
Neige – rhythm guitar on and composition of “La césarienne”, organ
Audrey S. – backing vocals

Tracklist:
1. L’Envol du Grabataire (Ode à Famine) (3:42)
2. Chute pour une culbute (3:36)
3. La Fin del Secle (4:51)
4. D’un vilain (2:46)
5. Condamné a la pondaison (7:18)
6. La césarienne (3:22)
7. Maleiçon (6:10)
8. Amour ne m’amoit ne je li (3:04)
9. Psaume IV (2:57)
10. Extrait radiophonique d’Antonin Artaud (0:57)
11. Folkfuck Folie (4:37)
12. Paysage Mauvais (5:01)

Total running time: 48:29

Source of (some of) the pictures: http://transcendentalcreations.com/

[1] As is, for example, the case with deluded hipsters like that wannabe nerd (yes, you’ll probably need to take a moment before you can grasp this concept) that does theneedledrop, worrying about the lyrics of a band like Peste Noire not being politically correct enough. Something clearly flew over your head somewhere, so go away.
[2] “Out of my head / They have made a cell, a grotto / In which crimes, neuroses, black thoughts / Jump around like toads / Abound! / My memory is tagged by beatings and droppings, / My present devoured / By depression.”

Update 15/03/13:
- Spaced out text to make the review more readable

6 thoughts on “Diabolus vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo!

  1. The excellence of your writing is marred by one flaw, the beauty spot on the visage of your review, so to speak:
    Existence is spelled with an “e”.

    I still thoroughly enjoy your writing and wish to perform intercourse with you at the earliest convenience.

  2. Peste Noire – which I happen to criticize on its own merit – aside, it seems from your very first words that you are very bothered by the labels people give to things you like to associate yourself with. Fear not, it is of absolute no importance.

    The fact that Behemoth, Immortal, Gorgoroth, Death or any other well known extreme metal band feature on tv in no way implies that it is all part of some hidden world order forcing us into the consumerism bracket that they have secured for us.

    If you dislike the music, fine, and even if you want to publicly disclose this opinion it’s fine as well. But don’t debase any chance you have of sounding pseudo-intelligent in your review, or no-one will want to read it. Trying to explain an album by starting at what it is NOT is a very tedious and senseless way to grip a reader’s attention, AND it shows you’re stupid and that this review could in all possibility continue ad infinitum.

    • @demojesus It rather shows I do not care for the connotation of rebellion that is so often applied to things that – for one reason or another – do not deserve it and perhaps never have. The fact that these things are now being exploited by commercialism and even used by governmental bodies for propaganda purposes shows that they have lost any initial ‘shock value’ (in lack of a better term) they may have had and have since been embraced by a society it once rebelled against – or claimed to do so at least. This has nothing to do with a ‘world order’ but rather with an arguably inevitable process of ‘toning down’ or ‘losing the rough edges’, if you will.

      With black metal it may not have come quite as far yet (at least, I don’t remember the EU using black metal to reach out to the youth), but I’d say the biggest problem the genre faces right now is that it is becoming redundant in its own right. Transilvanian Hunger, for example, was a very progressive (or regressive if you will) record that took a lot of getting used to. Due to its influence, however, it has been copied so many times to a point where it became normal or even boring. This is why I think black metal bands should resort to other means if they want to – put in colloquial terms – ‘keep the spirit alive’.

      As for your criticism on my style: my reviews on here are rarely intended solely as a means of voicing my opinion on an album. I want to put it into perspective in regards to the band’s oeuvre, the genre or even music in general. If that makes me stupid in your view then so be it, but I’m very conscious of the way I write.

      • Wow, now you’re making me feel like a cunt. I was expecting at least some amount of diatribe.

        I’ve always felt it a bit naive and maybe even a little juvenile to think that an idea such as Black Metal could possibly be the one entity in the world that has all its adherents perceive its statement and its origins identically. That said, Black Metal has obvious connotations with rebellion and most of the bands that play the style do propagate this connotation, whether it be apocryphal or not. I don’t think a band like Immortal are posers because they have lost their rough edge though. It was a fairly steady movement away from pure rebellion to a more escapist theme.

        I don’t agree that you lose any credibility as a Black Metal artist just because the main elements in your music isn’t Satanic or somehow blasphemously counter-cultural. If you have that kind of view on it then you have already imposed your own belief and value systems on that concept.

        Repetition is the bane of all things, which is another reason why I praise bands like Enslaved and Immortal for being able to grow into their own. A million other bands tried to copy Transylvanian Hunger, but couldn’t, but what did Darkthrone do? They evolved, into something we may like or not. They had already defined and refined the genre – a term which I only use loosely. How can one allow oneself to be forever trapped in past achievements?

        We are actually talking about the same thing yet we assume different outcomes. All I’m saying is I would’ve been delighted if Ulver, Immortal, Enslaved, Mayhem, Emperor, to name some of the more popular ones, went along in the same vein as when they started, but you can’t really hold it against them for wanting some change and incidentally becoming more popular in the process.

        As for your style and my criticism thereof: all I originally meant to say was that you should try to stick to the album under scrutiny and try to be objective (not that I could necessarily do better). I really enjoyed the rest of this article once I got passed my rant. Didn’t know this album up till now and it’s really excellent, and your perceptive insights and detailed analysis thereof enriched my listening experience greatly. I’ll definitely read some more and I’ll try to be more mindful the next time I comment.

      • I guess the snarkiness of my articles implies an unpleasant persona – I’m really not all that bad.

        Anyway, I might have gave a wrong impression with that article, because if anything, I actually agree with a lot of what you say. I by no means wish for bands to forever remain stuck in old patterns and clearly defined structures: if anything that’s the thing I oppose most. The main reason why admire PN so much is because it uses the rebellious (and to a lesser exten escapist) theme that made black metal interesting in the first place, but very consciously avoids the conventions of both its music and its “discourse”, in a way. The lyrics of PN are very atypical for the genre in terms of both content and structure (the second song of their latest album parodises misogynic street culture by immitating it for example), and their music reflects it. Exactly because of this reason, they are made out to be “posers” because they don’t stick to the conventions as implied by the Norwegian scene of the early nineties. My argument is that those bands (i.e. Burzum, Darkthrone, Mayhem, Immortal, etc.) shaped the genre (of course influenced by the first wave bands) by ignoring conventions, hence making it a rather stupid notion that a black metal band is bad because it doesn’t follow conventions. As such, I fully agree that black metal doesn’t have to be satanic, blasphemous, or even inherently negative in order to be good. If anything, it’s the abundance of those elements in modern black metal that makes them uneffective and even undesirable. PN just happens to approach the satanism idea from a very original angle (to a point where one might argue that it isn’t satanism at all), which is why I praised them for it.

        My criticism towards the likes of Immortal and Gorgoroth is more directed at how they eventually started resorting to theatrical means to exploits the image of black metal. You are probably familiar with the infamous music videos of Immortal. Even though I think their music is decent in its own right, I just can’t listen to it with a straight face when I see those clownesque videos and how they behave like gangster rappers in interviews. Gorgoroth I dislike for similar reasons; they consciously thrive on infamy and try to exploit it by propagating half-baked philosophical ideas, even though I probably shouldn’t be the one to complain about the latter going by how I approach reviews. Still, look at the link I put in my article (to Gaahl’s “Satan…” comment) and try not to laugh. I’ve always been a big fan of Emperor, though, and I consider their last album their best, so I by no means am opposed to artistic evolution and professionalisation within the genre.

        And thus ends my mini-essay. No need to apologise – it’s been an interesting discussion.

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