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Review: Gris - Il Était une Forêt...
Il Était une Forêt...

Label: Sepulchral Productions
Year released: 2007
Duration: 59:32
Tracks: 6
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 5+/5

Review online: December 28, 2008
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Readers Rating
Il Était une Forêt...

Rated 4.44/5 (88.75%) (16 Votes)

Depressive Suicidal Black Metal; a stupid name for a sub-genre yes, but in its own stupid way, suitable (well, let's leave the "suicidal" for the emo kids and Kvarforthian show ponies). It's a sub-genre that, like┬ámost metal (sub) genres, you either love or hate, perhaps due to the number of utterly worthless bands throwing their teenage angst into the ring via Myspace. But there is some gold hidden among the iron pyrite, and here we have some of that gold: Gris, formerly Niflheim, is a two man band from the vast icy wastelands of...Canada! The Canadian scene has of recent times spawned some very impressive DSBM bands and I would say that Gris is the best of a very talented bunch. Their debut, "Neurasthénie", was a decent if somewhat uneven effort, but from the ashes of Niflheim bursts the phoenix of Gris with "Il Était une Forêt..." ("It was a Forest", according to Google), an album of unrelenting despair and inner torment. Foregoing the typically thin and distant production of their genre peers, "Il Était une Forêt..." boasts as full and powerful production that simultaneously retains the fuzzy, razor-sharp tone typical of DSBM, providing a sound not altogether different from the incidental effects of a car wreck (notably the icy shattering of glass and its bloody after effects). All instruments are audible, and none of them overpowers, but neither do any of them take centre stage — they all have a vital role to play, and there is often a lot going on, with distorted and acoustic guitars providing a foundation for the vocals, and on occasion a piano or acoustic melody accompanying for good measure.

But this is merely the setting of a stage, a perfect production means little without the songs to back it up, and it is here that Gris deliver - from the brief and angelic keyboard intro of the title track that segues into the tormented screams of vocalist Icare, through the beautifully desperate cries of "Cicatrice" to the classically sublime "La Dryade", Gris do not falter for even a single beat. The album is mostly mid-paced throughout — there are no blast beats although the drums do rumble with some double-bass on occasion. As a whole the album is quite varied through the use of many acoustic sections and the inclusion of other instruments, namely, pianos, violins, and cellos (even a rare guitar solo!), but a no point does it lose its atmosphere of enveloping despair. Special mention should be made of the last track, "La Dryade", a wonderfully morose neo-classical instrumental featuring all acoustic guitars and the above mentioned cellos and violins; it comes as a very pleasant surprise, and its 10 minutes never drag nor leave behind the albums unforgiving sadness. The shortest track on the album is a touch over 8 minutes, so it requires some investment, but this is the case with any worthwhile album, and not something that will dissuade any Black Metal fan anyway. The lyrics are all in French so I have no idea what Icare is screaming about, but it sure does sound important, at least to him.

A personal highlight is the middle section of the song "Cicatrice", a high note of wailing from Icare over a breath-taking melody that chokes me up every time I hear it - very few albums are able to produce such a response from me.

I give this album a 5+/5 without reservation; doesn't really leave me anywhere to go in future reviews I know, but this album truly deserves it. Go and buy it now or cut yourself trying.

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