Foret d’Orient, Eclipse Eternal unleash their own takes on black metal chaos

A few weeks ago, a digital flier popped up in my e-mail alerting me to the upcoming Negură Bunget North American tour, about as exciting a thing as I could imagine finding in my inbox. It made me come to two conclusions: First, it’s a miracle Pittsburgh is getting one of the tour dates because we almost always get passed by for tours such as these. Second, I need to do more stuff about Archaic North Entertainment, the label that’s sponsoring the tour and releases music by some pretty awesome artists.

The site got its start about a decade ago when Mark Howitt was playing in the band Fleshcraft (that eventually morphed into Wolven Ancestry) and decided he wanted to give other touring musicians a helping hand. That built into Archaic North booking regular shows in Northern Ontario, founding the Sudbury Metal Feast (2011 was the sixth anniversary of the event), and eventually setting up the record label end of the business in 2007. Wolven Ancestry gave Archaic North its official kickoff into the record business with their “The Wrath of Gaia,” and eventually the group Empyrean Plague joined the fold as their second official act. The floodgates opener from there, and they now have a whole slew of varied acts on their impressive roster. Archaic North also boasts services such as merch manufacturing, graphic design and artist management.

Today, we have two of Archaic North’s more recent releases from bands that really don’t sound a thing like each other despite both meeting in the black metal wilderness. That said, both bands and their records are ripe for crossover appeal as well, so maybe they can find some friends among listeners they ordinarily would not have attracted.

Foret D'Orient

Let’s start with Venice, Italy, classically inspired black metal band Foret D’Orient. That name, translated from French into English, means “oriental forest.” The group formed in 2009, and late last year they offered up their debut EP “Essedvm,” a spacious, atmospheric, six-song effort that serves as an appetizer for the rest of the career. It runs just 17 minutes, and this band really just gets its engine warmed up before the whole thing is over. But they’re a young group, and it’ll be interesting to hear what they can do with a full-length effort.

I know classically minded death and black metal can scare some people. This isn’t Cradle of Filth bombast and silliness, nor is it off-kilter, tough-to-digest insanity most expect from Sigh. Sure, there are strings, some synth curtains, flutes, and even a 47-string harp played by Sonia Dainese, but these instruments don’t overpower the production or take away from the metal. Instead, they work in concert with what else is going on, so you never feel like a black metal show erupted during Disney on Ice. That was refreshing to me, because I generally can’t stand the overblown orchestration so many other bands jam into the sound. It always feels like too much. Foret D’Orient never come close to such silliness and really have figured out a well-balanced package.

The EP opens on sort of a red herring. “Campo di Marte” is dramatic, with big horns and folkish spine and some clean singing softly entering the mix. You’re waiting for things to get ridiculous, but once “Sagitta” kicks in, you learn you’re totally wrong. The song ignites with a fury, and while there’s a swelling melody, some acoustics and a sweep of strings, there’s a great bit of hammering and savage vocals from Roberto Catto. “Mantva 1328–I e II Movimento” has the name of something that sounds like it’ll be a 14-part suite, and it opens like music that could soundtrack a lush “Lord of the Rings” scene. But it eventually melts into screams and growls, some trickling melody, and driving guitar work. “Diadema” has some true black metal strains and is one of the darker, more ominous cuts on this effort, while closer “Prudentia et Armi” also blasts open and mangles, eventually going into kind of an oddball melody before straightening out. Again, this is just an idea of what this band can do, and once they get a full album in front of us, it’ll give a better chance to wrap our heads around what they are. I’m looking forward to hearing said album, and I’m relieved I won’t be beaten about the head and torso with orchestral dramatics.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/foretdorient?sk=info

To buy “Essedvm,” go here: http://archaicnorth.bigcartel.com/product/foret-d-orient-essedvm-ane07

Eclipse Eternal

Eclipse Eternal are all over you like a pack of angry wolves. They give you no chance to breathe, to think about your surroundings, to plan an escape route. Before you know it, you’re underneath the band’s claws, with their teeth at your throat, mangling you with their epic brand of black metal. From the first time I took on the band’s third full-length album “The Essence of Hopelessness,” I was overwhelmed by the Toronto’s group’s power and fury, and it made me excited to think forward to seeing the band live this spring when they support Negură Bunget. In fact, outside of the headliners, this is the band I’m most excited to see live.

Looking at the dudes in the band, they’ve got the scary old black metal feel. They look menacing, they’re smeared in corpse paint, and they probably could end up on a no-fly list based on appearance alone. In fact, they even share some similarities of black metal’s pioneers such as the earliest work from Immortal, Bathory and Emperor. It’s raw, primitive, attacking music, and it’s dark and menacing as hell. You have a closing one-two punch of songs called “Murder … Suicide” and “Noose.” Really, that tells you a lot about the band right there. But with all that pessimistic hell, you’ll surge with their pulsating melodies and their metallic hugeness. All this said, they also have fleeting hints of beauty and imagination with their cleaner, more atmospheric parts.

The album opens with “Ragnarok,” an explosive, penetrating slab of scary goodness, and that leads into “Deathbound,” that has an unexpectedly dreamy middle section complete with music box plinking and spacey ’70s prog-rock keys; “Ancient Voices on the Winds,” a song that could give you a second and third wind during an exhaustive winter walk amongst the trees; and “Ode to a Long Time Gone,” that finds frontman Voldamares Overman telling his tale in spoken passages, revisiting a time when people lived with strength and honor and hoping to rekindle those fires. “But we were born too late,” he laments, just as speedy, Iron Maiden-style guitar lines burst from the seams. The title track is a ferocious monster, “Death Obsession” is sprawling and angry, and the aforementioned final two cuts are just as ugly as they are somber and depressing. Everything this band does on “The Essence of Hopelessness” is exciting and makes the blood rush right to your head. It deserves to be played loudly, whether it’s from your stereo speakers or headphones, and it’ll rip your lungs right from your chest. If more black metal bands played with the guts and heart these guys do, there’d be far more bands worth our attention.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy “The Essence of Hopelessness,” go here: http://archaicnorth.bigcartel.com/product/eclipse-eternal-the-essence-of-hopelessness-ane08

For more on the label, go here: http://www.archaicnorth.com/

We hope to have a lot more from Archaic North in the weeks and months to come, and we’ll definitely be doing a lot on the Negura Bunget tour. That’s another reason to look forward to the spring, even if it means the frostbitten grimness will be behind us.