Crusade in Combat Boots

“The ten saw it. They saw it as if they beheld, from great heights, the course of water veins in alluvium. They beheld the emerging disorder, the fission, the mitosis. It was small, still, but unmistakable.”
- Ferdinand Bordewijk, Blokken, 1931

KPN V

Artist: la grande france macabre Peste Noire
Release: Peste Noire (full-length album)
Record company: La Mesnie Herlequin
Year: L’An de Disgrâce 2013
Language: French (+ Ukrainian/Swedish)
Genre: Swindlers’ Nightmare

Original Dutch text and English translation by Degtyarov
(Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie)

Danse-Diable

From burning cars to smouldering pyres

“But Famine, what are you doing?” For many, this was the first thought that came to mind upon hearing L’Ordure à l’état Pur, the fourth full-length album by Peste Noire, which is a good two years behind us by now. Even for the notorious French formation, which managed to stir shit with basically every album it put out, it was an ambitious and risky project that divided the fan-base. It was ambitious because the band reinvented itself for the umpteenth time, while it had by then already found its own niche within the black metal genre, as achieved on Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor. It was also risky, because the album relied heavily on the foundation of the lyrics: frontman Famine recently stated in an interview that the music on L’Ordure “follows the text word for note” [1]. This meant that the degree to which the listener understood the lyrics largely dictated his perception of the music [2]. And despite the worldwide appreciation of the band, Peste Noire continues to perform near-exclusively in French,mister fomin logically rendering the lyrical content and, subsequently, the band concept as a whole incomprehensible to large segments of its audience. As such, the afore-described reaction of shock was fairly dominant among both listeners and reviewers of the album. Those who attempted to interpret L’Ordure, though, in a light of misogyny, trolling, or some random experimentation drive, kind of missed the point.

Since 2011, however, a lot has changed. Having avoided the internet like the plague (haha) throughout the first decade of his band’s existence, Famine switched to a greater online presence in recent years. The band – or rather the label owned by Famine – now has its own website, drastically increasing the supply of information towards the audience. The website is home to not only several articles elaborating on the vision and ethics of the band (most of which have recently been translated into English), but also to news surrounding the latest activities of the group and their label. This contributed to the birth of actual expectations regarding the new album, which was announced to be in production about a year ago. Statements of Famine and new drummer Ardraos revealed a faint silhouette of the band’s new direction.  Moreover, international fans of the band got the chance to explore quite profoundly the specifics of the Peste Noire phenomenon through the articles posted on the website. Whether all of this has actually contributed to a greater understanding of les durs de France, though, remains to be seen. Maybe the reception of Peste Noire‘s new, self-titled album will tell us more.

“The exquisite packaging of Famine’s latest opus horribilis hints at what is to come.”

There is no doubt that Peste Noire MMXIII will cause controversy once more. Seeing as the subtle, often downright ironic references to Famine’s political preferences on L’Ordure à l’état Pur were, in many circles of the bright metal community, enough to earn the band the image of a rabid gang of woman-beating beer Nazis, the more explicit references found on the new album will only strengthen the perception of some, that Peste Noire is basically the musical branch of the Front National. Even a quick gander at the album’s booklet will reveal that Peste Noire, despite (or perhaps because of) the endless accusations from the politically correct corners of the metal community, cannot resist the temptation of provocation. On one image, a shovel and a sword pierce a star of David. Meanwhile, those who skim through the lyrics are bound to notice that certain, presumably less politically ‘desirable’ words have been removed from the texts, and replaced with Hebrew writing.  While especially in the latter case, the irony is fairly obvious, these observations do pave the way for a slightly more grim tone when one draws a comparison with similar allusions on L’Ordure; the art of that album was still dominated by kooky pictures, such as one instance where the logo of La vache qui rit was conjoined with the emblem of Front National. The specific references to Judaism on the new album, and the hinting towards the (in France very real) threat of government censorship correspond with some of the recent, more politically explicit statements of Famine, driving the near-gleeful image of “Jean-Marie le PN” into the background. In this way, the exquisite packaging of the CD hints towards what is to come.

The explicit character of the illustrations resonates in the actual content of the album. Those who concluded after “La condi hu” (the last track of L’Ordure à l’état Pur), that Famine et frères would explore the regions of post-black metal, are acutely proven to have been wrong all along in the first few seconds of the new album. No contemplative, dreamlike melodies that sound like they could have been taken from a post-rock album, but unsettling, dictatorial tones define the introduction of Famine’s brand new opus horribilis. Organs, samples of thundering speeches, and tribal percussion give leeway to the first ‘real’ song on the album, “Démonarque”. On this track, it becomes increasingly apparent that, after the journey to the Parisian banlieues on which the band embarked with L’Ordure, Peste Noire has returned once more to the French countryside, plotting from deep within the forests of Occitania, in a village aptly named La Chaise-Dieu (The Seat/House of God [3]). From this forsaken locale, the group reintroduces the blastbeats that were all but absent on the previous two albums, whilst Famine delivers his killer lead guitar riffs, which can be considered one of his trademarks since the demo period of Peste Noire. As a result, the first song initially evokes memories of the period in which this French hooligan ensemble released Folkfuck folie and played quick, in-your-face black metal.

delmar

This sentiment has little staying power, however. It rapidly becomes clear that the folk elements that were already present on L’Ordure, have been developed further on the new album, to such an extent that they become a crucial factor in the reinterpretation of Peste Noire‘s signature sound. On the afore-mentioned track “Démonarque”, for instance, some of the black metal riffs are supported by an accordion, until the electric guitars and drums are silenced completely, and offer the stage to the acoustic guitar skills of Famine, a nice bit of traditional percussion, and hurdy gurdy melodies on the courtesy of L’Atrabilaire. While Peste Noire has flirted with traditional melodies and themes since forever (“Nous sommes fanés”, anyone?), the addition of genuine Gallic instrumentation gives a whole new spin to their already French-as-fuck music. Particularly L’Ordure à l’état Pur emphasised the undesirable: the album largely consisted of disgusting urban music, de-corated with industrial beats, multi-culture and lyrics full of speling mistakez. As was pointed out in the replies to our review of said album, the intro of L’Ordure still put us in the bloody past where Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor had left us in 2009, by commencing with a spiteful Occitan recitation guided by a traditional melody that might as well have been featured on Ballade. Soon, however, the past was left behind, and Famine guided us to a disgusting present-day, the journey to which was covered by a quote from the film Les visiteurs, in which the mediaeval nobleman Godefroy ‘le Hardi’ de Montmirail is magically transported to modern times, and exclaims:

“Quelle infamie, mais où sont passées la nature et les forêts, tout est laid, il n’y a plus un hectare sauvage pour chasser. L’air est suffocant, ça puir !” [4]

Conversely, Peste Noire MMXIII can be seen as the return from this excursion to modern times, seeing as it leaves the somewhat fatalistic conclusion of “La condi hu” [5] behind, returning instead to the glorification of a pre-Republican Gallic kingdom and its integration into the spiritual concept of a heathen Satanism. The song title “Démonarque” (“Demonarch”) is in itself an allusion to this approach: Satanism (id est the aesthetisation of evil [6]) intermingling with elitism (id est a neo-aristocracy meant, among other things, to control the decerebrated commoners that tend to flourish under democracy). The idea of this dual nationalism relies on the principles of intelligence and aggression; the monk and the warrior; ‘las armas y las letras‘ (‘the weapons and the letters’) – a duality that resonates throughout Europe’s blood-spattered history: whether it’s the troubadours, who, inbetween composing and fucking themselves a groin fracture, participated in the Crusades [7]; or Cervantes, who removed kebab at Lepanto in 1571 before dedicating himself to helping lay the foundations of Western literature with Don Quixote and the Novelas ejemplares (Exemplary Novels); Benito Mussolini who proclaimed “libro e moschetto – Fascista perfetto” (“book and musket – perfect Fascist”); José Antonio Primo de Rivera and Onésimo Redondo who, with their national-syndicalists, held the ideal of militants who were ‘half monks, half soldiers’; that select group of modern hooligans who study during the week, but beat the living daylights out of each other during the weekends, just because they can; embracing the idea of a total man who strives towards supremacy in both mind and body. And now the men of Peste Noire, Terroristen mit E-Gitarre, rank themselves among these notorious individuals by demolishing the modern world with blind rage, only to reconstruct her through twisted spiritual redemption.

solAvec le Kommando, pensez et agissez français

The idea that this component of rage was the main ingredient of L’Ordure is attested to by the recently discussed song “La condi hu”, but also by “Casse, Pêches, Fractures et Traditions”, and “J’avais rêvé du Nord”. This last song dropped us in the filthy French suburbs with its urban rap, only to – to speak in the words of Famine himself – transport us to a dream of the North through epic songs calling for redemption. In the second part of this piece, said redemption is subsequently realised through armed resistance. While the rap element has not disappeared completely on Peste Noire MMXIII, this album mainly alludes to this same redemption, both the dream and the execution of it: “Suivons le Roi anarque / Il purgera l’Hexagone / De ses imposteurs / Au fusil mitrailleur.” [8] Because of this, the album at hand can be labelled as more direct; the subtlety through which the ‘enemy’ was taunted previously (like on L’Ordure‘s “Cochon Carotte et les sœurs Crotte”) has a much more restricted presence this time around, seeing as the taunts are often replaced with a heads-on charge towards the perceived enemy.

Because while the band may not dwell through flaming banlieues any more, and the music now assumes a more mediaeval perspective, the flames of Peste Noire‘s hate still gleam uninterrupted. This time around, though, the flames do not dance on top of burning cars, but rather at the foot of smouldering pyres. The dance floor of the metropolitan disco has been replaced with a dance of death on the European countryside. The gloomy atmosphere that rises to prominence on certain parts of this album indeed reminds of la danse macabre: grim folk music cavorting with obscure metal – a Crusade in Combat Boots. ardraxeIn combination with Abruptum-like organ melodies and Famine’s trademark sickly vocals, the music is provided with an occult (in its literal, esoteric sense) atmosphere that feels considerably more uneasy than the recognisable (if not trusted) metropolitan hysteria that defined the sound of L’Ordure à l’état Pur.

“The temptation to slap the ‘NSBM’ label onto Peste Noire must be avoided at all costs.

In the lyrics, too, this spiritual relocation to mediaeval times manifests itself on multiple occasions. For example, the song “Le clebs noir de Pontgibaud” (“The black mutt of Pontgibaud”) refers to a late-mediaeval Auvergnat legend in which the son of a man who was found guilty of witchcraft and subsequently deep-fried on the pyre, is approached by a black dog who grants him magical powers that he can use to avenge his father. The dog tells him to go to the cemetery of Volvic and burn a pile of bones located there. The son complies, and the ashes of the bones become the ashes of the men who were responsible for his father’s death, thus suffering the same fate as they bestowed upon the father. The track “La bêche et l’épée contre l’usurier” (“The shovel and the sword against the usurer”) sees Peste Noire take an unusual politically explicit stance. The first two verses leave little to the imagination in this sense, at least to those with a basic understanding of European history: “Ils infectant nos puits / Ils tuaient nos enfants / Ils prétaient aux petits / Pour en faire leurs servants / Qu’est-ce qui change ajourd’hui? /  Vaccins, avortements / Usure, crédits / Pour nous tuer lentement” [9]. The samples from a speech by Joseph Darnand, leader of the Service d’ordre légionnaire (S.O.L.) [10] near the end of the song only confirm the political connotations of this song.

While the political aspect thus manifests itself on this album with considerably less ambiguity than we are used to, the temptation to slap the ‘NSBM’ label onto Peste Noire must be avoided at all costs. The band has always toyed around with references to the extreme right, but the Satanic aspect of their ideology renders impossible any identification with the stuck-up, hygiene-obsessed dandies or impulsive beer Nazis that nowadays occupy to a significant degree this part of the political spectrum. As such, apart from unmistakable nationalism, the lyrics also proclaim a fascination with the terrible: in “La Blonde” a violent drunkenness at the hands of blonde beer is described: “La Blonde / Elle me rend agressif / Comme Ayyash devant un kibboutz / Elle fait qu’à mon actif / J’ai tes dents sur mes paraboots” [11]. On “Niquez vos villes” (“Fuck your towns”), Famine drops another brag-’n’-boast rap section, while on “Démonarque”, the “anarch king” is praised. It is thus not surprising that one phrase found in the album’s booklet reads: “Nous sommes le commando Peste Noire, de la droite les plus anars” [12], a text that is unlikely to receive a great degree of appreciation among the more rigid segments of the extreme right. This already became apparent when, during Peste Noire‘s tour with Akitsa through Québec, a concert was reportedly disturbed by protests from both Neo-Nazis and Antifa; two groups of one-dimensional thinkers par excellence, who got their knickers into a twist over a band they did not even begin to understand. Which is, rather unfortunately, an all too familiar scene in this oblivious world.

la chouffe noire

As such, nationalism in itself does not suffice to capture the concept of Peste Noire in its entirety, but the same applies to the Satanic aspect with which the band also identifies itself. For Famine’s pagan interpretation of Satanism is greatly contrasted by the more common, Semitic interpretation of the concept (see: Deathspell Omega); the same goes for the liberal, atheist philosophy of one Anton Levy LaVey, that finds many followers among bland metal bands such as Dimmu Borgir. Peste Noire might be a proponent of individual independence, but this desire for autonomy has an elitist background rather than a liberal one (‘equal opportunities for all’). What makes this band special is that it does not only propagate this unique approach within the music, but also outside of it. Famine could have made tons of money signing for Season of Mist or a similar label, but instead chose to maintain complete artistic freedom by establishing his own label, La Mesnie Herlequin. Consequently, the ‘NSBM’ tag is an insult for the rich band concept of Peste Noire, which also means that those who commit themselves to such statements as “I listen to Peste Noire, even though I do not share their political views”, approach the band in a fundamentally flawed manner. This music is not about a mere case of ‘agreeing’ or ‘disagreeing’ with some alleged political stance deriving from it; it is about the values (political, spiritual and artistic) upon which ‘le Kommando Peste Noire‘ is based, and which are showcased through their art. The music is derived from this peculiar vision of the band; one cannot exist without the other. Reducing this conceptual completeness to a futile political question that can be separated from the music at the leisure of the listener, testifies of the same kind of one-dimensional thinking that got the best of the afore-mentioned Neo-Nazi and Antifa protesters [13].

“It testifies of great taste that Famine has given the bass such a prominent role.”

Still, those who persist in their tunnel vision perception of things might better grasp at least some of the band’s ideology by realising that, even more so than nationalism and Satanism, elitism is the Leitmotiv of Peste Noire, at least when it concerns what separates them from other bands in the genre. Among other things, this can be noticed in the fashion in which the band distances itself from the ‘metal scene’ in interviews and articles, as a result of the stupidity that supposedly prevails among metalheads. An additional advantage of this posture is that the Nietzschean drive for excellence becomes apparent also in the music, for example through the quality of the instrumentation on this new album. First and foremost, Peste Noire has found in Ardraos (familiar of Sühnopfer and Christicide, among other projects that you have not checked out, but definitely should) its best drummer to date – by a considerable margin, too. His ultra-tight blastbeats and creative breaks ensure that Peste Noire MMXIII emits considerably more quality drum-wise than the previous two albums in particular. Meanwhile, Famine continues displaying his incredibly versatile guitar playing: especially the Valfunde-like solo on “Ode”, as well as the conjunction of guitars and traditional elements are notable, all the while the skilfully executed, unconventional lead guitar riffs on “Démonarque” and “La bêche et l’épée contre l’usurier” betray a vision that is more broad than the vast majority of black metal musicians. bruegWith this, Famine is one of the lamentably few guitarists in the subgenre who truly set themselves apart with a unique, recognisable style. Additionally, the band leader also proves that he is a more than capable bassist. For a while it was feared (at least by yours truly) that the loss of bass virtuoso Indria would lead to a dramatic drop in quality (bass-wise) on the new album, particularly because guitarists who are forced to moonlight as bass players have the unpleasant tendency of killing the bass in the final mix in favour of a louder rhythm guitar (cuz it is metalzzz \m/). Famine is still no Indria, but it at least testifies of great courage and taste that, despite the loss of his favourite bassist, he would give this instrument such a prominent role.

However, the clearly audible bass is one of few aspects in which the respective productions of L’Ordure à l’état Pur and Peste Noire MMXIII intertwine. In terms of production, the latter-named album is largely a return to the more rugged, organic sound of Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor, even if the guitar sound on the new album is characterised by more clarity. Ardraos’s drums are considerably less present in the final mix than they were in the production of his Sühnopfer releases, although this is mostly to do with the fact that the compositions of his solo project are considerably more drum-based, whereas Peste Noire – the brainchild of lead guitar player Famine, nota bene – has always been as guitar-oriented a band as they come in the black metal genre. Still, more present drums could have contributed even more to the rawness that the album’s production seems to aim for. Another slight hiccup is that, in the mid-section of “La bêche et l’épée contre l’usurier”, the guitar is sometimes overruled and briefly pushed into the background by the percussion, as if the former were side-chained. In the end, though, Peste Noire has never quite been a band for production fetishists, so it is unlikely that the slight bumps in this aspect of the music are going to form a serious obstacle for seasoned followers of the band, or the subgenre in general.

No, adepts of Peste Noire will be pleased with this new, perhaps final chapter in the musical career of the filibusters from La Chaise-Diable. One of the strong sides of Peste Noire has always been that each album feels like it is a song on the giant concept album that is their discography: the downfall of civilisation on La Sanie des siècles – Panégyrique de la dégénérescence; the descent into the undercrofts of madness of Folkfuck folie; the barbarian nationalism of Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor; the journey through the terminally ill modern world of L’Ordure à l’état Pur… And now, with Peste Noire MMXIII, the heads-on charge on that same ill world, fueled by rage born from a mediaeval ruthlessness. The circle seems to be complete; it is difficult to imagine what terra incognita still waits to be explored by the band. Perhaps we will see a larger focus on the rap or Oi elements of their music, although it does not seem to suit Famine to dedicate himself to one musical dimension. Still, Peste Noire is – like always – at risk of seeing its oeuvre captured into one dimension by reviewers and listeners alike, with the interpretation / appreciation of their music relying on a persistent tunnel vision. It is only a matter of time before people succeed in shoehorning this new album, too, into the confines of a single denomination, be that label Oi or NSBM. Alas, it is the fate of the most creative figures, to also be the most misunderstood individuals of this world.

rev

Peste Noire can be bought soon now at La Mesnie Herlequin.

Les durs d’Auvergne are:
Mr. Fomin – vocals, guitar (electric; acoustic), bass guitar (electric; acoustic), tambourine, mail-man
Ardraos – tight as fook drums, accordion
Audrey – clean backing vocals
L’Atrabilaire – hurdy gurdy
Lazareth – trumpet
Veurmin – carnyx und lituus
Pire – violoncello
Antumnos – Western concert flute
R. the mysterious Ukrainian bloke – additional vocals on tracks 4 and 6
Ravenlord – additional vocals on tracks 2, 4 and 8
Melkor – additional vocals on track 4
Arawn – additional vocals on track 5
Dunkel – additional vocals on track 5
Khräss – additional vocals on track 7

Tracklist:
1. Le retour de la peste (3:51)
2. Démonarque (7:42)
3. La bêche et l’épée contre l’usurier (8:10)
4. Niquez vos villes (6:46)
5. Le clebs noir de Pontgibaud (5:15)
6. Ode (4:16)
7. La Blonde (4:08)
8. Moins trente degrés celsius (6:26)

Total running time: 46:39

Notes:
[1]L’Ordure was criticised for its text, whereas it is in fact essentially a textual album. The music is almost secondary in this album. I firmly prefer the text to the music of L’Ordure.” Source: La Mesnie Herlequin.
[2] For some people, a song such as “Cochon Carotte et les sœurs Crotte” sounded like a tasteless melange of zouk, reggaeton and other whorish music, transformed into a random, directionless industrial cacophony. For others, however, it was a brilliant parody of disgusting urban culture, given the caveman-like misogyny and the deliberate illiteracy that emerge from the lyrics.
[3] ‘Chaise’ means seat/chair in French, but is in itself a mistranslation of the Occitan word ‘chasa’, which means ‘house’.
[4] As was pointed out in the replies to the review of L’Ordure, this fragment is from the comedy film Les visiteurs, in which a mediaeval French knight ends up in present-day France. The translation: “What a disgrace. Where have the nature and forests gone? Everything is empty; there is not a hectare [of land] left to hunt on. The air is suffocating, it smells!”
[5] “La condi hu” (“La condition humaine” / “The state of man”) is the last track from L’Ordure à l’état Pur. From our review of that album: “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.”
[6] Also read this article, written by Famine, for more information on the aesthetics of evil.
[7] Also read this article by L’Atrabilaire.
[8] “We follow the anarch king / He will cleanse the hexagon / Of its imposters / With the assault rifle”.
[9] “They poisoned our wells / They killed our children / They lent to the poor / To turn them into their slaves / What has changed today? / Vaccinations, abortions / Usuring, credits / [Meant] To kill us slowly”.
[10] The S.O.L. was a right-wing militia active under the Vichy regime, and the precursor to the Milice française. An edited version of the emblem of state of Vichy France could already be seen in the re-edition of Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor.
[11] “The Blonde [beer] / She makes me aggressive / Like Ayyash in front of a kibbutz / I have your teeth under my combat boots”.
[12] “We are the commando Peste Noire / The most anarchist of the right”.
[13] Unfortunately, music listeners are not the only ones to sport this sort of mentality. There are striking similarities with, for example, the discussion surrounding the legendary novella Bint (1934), written by Ferdinand Bordewijk. Nearly 80 years after its initial publication, the story is still approached from the perspective of deciding whether the book is for or against fascism. The sad part is that this question is not even relevant. Ralf Grüttemeier gives a more detailed account on the flaws of this kind of approach of art in his article “De impasse rond ‘Bint’ en een aanzet tot overwinning“, but unfortunately it only seems to be available in Dutch. Who knows, maybe I will translate it at one point.

Credit where it’s due:

  • The term ‘opus horribilis’ has been lifted from the interview with Famine in the vinyl edition of Folkfuck folie.
  • The information concerning the origin and meaning of the name ‘La Chaise-Dieu’ was taken from the 2013 interview with Famine on LMH.
  • Thanks to Ardraos for clarifying the origin of the S.O.L. fragment in “La bêche et l’épée contre l’usurier”.
  • Information concerning the legend of the black dog of Pontgibaud can be found here.
  • Band pictures are edited versions of photographs by Metastazis.
  • Thanks to Mystery Man for several corrections.

See also:
Review of Folkfuck folie
Review of L’Ordure à l’état Pur
Review of Sühnopfer‘s Nos sombres chapelles
Review of Triste Sir‘s Royaume perdu


Music listened to during this review
Peste Noire, Ultima Thule, Nokturnal Mortum, Mütiilation, Drudkh, Sivyj Yar

Beer consumed during this review: La Chouffe (Blonde, of course); Dommelsch, LöwenWeisse

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