Au Champ des Morts put dark shroud over black metal with emotional debut ‘Dans la Joie’

acdmDarkness and dreariness reign this time of year, as the sunlight is choked out early, and the skies remain grey for what seems like eons. Many people suffer from seasonal mood disorder, making them feel down or sad because of the lack of sunlight and being trapped inside for such a long time without fresh air and sunlight. I’m not saying those things influenced today’s band and music, but they certainly go hand-in-hand quite well.

Au Champ des Morts (translated means Field of the Dead) formed just a few years ago, but already they have a thick slab of black metal filled with anguish and depression. Their debut record “Dans la Joie,” which translated means “In Joy,” sounds like a record that’s anything but that. Clouds and black rivers flow out of the band’s music, and while the atmosphere is rich and the melodies often flow heavily, there’s so much here that pulls back to the doldrums, left to face these drab days alone. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing, having a morose companion such as this band—vocalist/guitarist Stephane Bayle, bassist Cecile G., drummer Wilheim—can be something of a helping hand, a means to show you that not only is your world drowning in shadows, so are many others’ as well. The band’s music certainly is swelling and heavy, enough to blow down buildings. But there also is a hint of sensitivity (that is not to be read as weakness, as vulnerability is an act of self-strength) in the Alcest/Deafheaven that makes these songs slightly colorful.

au-champ-cover“Nos Decombres” starts the record with an emotional burst and creaky growls, as the music streams and soars as it goes on, making it feel like the band literally is bleeding into this. Some clean singing enters and quivers before the track opens anew, spilling in spacey keys and drubbing power. “Apres Le Carnage” opens like water trickling through a hole in a wall before the whole things gives way, with clean calls and grisly growls hammering. Pain can be felt around every corner, and when melody strikes and brings in lushness, it’s always balanced by bruising and cinders being embedded into your elbows. Toward the end of the song, a huge tidal wave of feels crush you, as a swirl of voices sweeps over you and robs you of breath. “Le Sang, La Mort, La Chute” has a watery ambiance to start, as it travels along a mid-tempo, with clean singing leading the way. Gazey fire erupts while growls emerge, as the torturous pace grinds you into the ground, and a heavy curtain of doom drops over everything, bringing a smothering force. In fact, the final minutes remain in the dark, coming to a moody, shadowy end.

“Contempler L’Abime” follows a post-rock path, which is odd but fitting, and then it tears into a pocket of a gaze storm that hangs overhead and saturates the ground. The vocals are heart-wrenching, with a strong, riveting finish that shows a different side of the band’s sound. The title track is the longest cut at 9:59, beginning in a cloud of murk before tearing the sky apart and unleashing a storm. The song is mostly a total assault on the senses, keeping your brain rattling inside your head and, even when it slips into the mists and lets synth rise up, always promises to ignite again, which is does as it steamrolls toward the finish. “L’Etoile Du Matin” has the drums leading in and keys gathering, with the singing giving off a classic Celtic Frost vibe. Unhinged yells join later, as a gothy smear spreads soot and sadness. Closer “La Fin Du Monde” is a curve ball of a final cut, with clean guitars bubbling and drizzling singing darkening the setting. Chant-filled singing brings a hypnotic push, and that circles around your head before it disappears into the unknown.

Au Champs des Morts’ entrance into our world three years ago added another force into the black metal scene that, while their teeth are sharp, are not just here for physical violence sake. “Dans la Joie” deals as much mental anguish as anything, helping you connect to these dark times and perhaps find a way to survive the whirlpool. The fact they do so in such an interesting, emotional way leads to their impact being felt long after you experience their music.

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