Album Review – Dreams of the Drowned / Dreams of the Drowned I (2019)

Take a deep dive into the first full-length album by an Avantgarde Black Metal one-man band from France, representing years of wandering in a necromantic attempt to keep the fire of some long-time missing aesthetics burning.

Created in 2007 in Évreux, a commune in and the capital of the department of Eure, in the French region of Normandy, by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Camille (from Smohalla and Stagnant Waters), Avantgarde Black Metal one-man band Dreams of the Drowned is finally releasing its debut full-length album, entitled Dreams of the Drowned I, a decade after the band’s 2018 debut demo and the 2019 EP Thanatotropic Principle. A mixture of Experimental Black Metal and anarchist European witchcraft, the music by Dreams of the Drowned is highly inspired by bands such as Ved Buens Ende, Killing Joke, Emperor, Blind Idiot God and Amebix, with Dreams of the Drowned I representing years of wandering in a necromantic attempt to keep the fire of some long-time missing aesthetics burning, dealing with obscure topics such as atypical mental states, the feeling of loss, the forest, and the will to reclaim long-gone connections and power from within.

Ominous, atmospheric sounds emerge from the crypts of Hades in the instrumental piece Dream I, setting the tone for the hypnotizing Conciliabules, where Camille beings extracting Stygian notes from his guitar and bass while his vocal lines couldn’t sound more avantgarde and grim, resulting in a sonic onrush of modern and thrilling sounds and tones that will certainly disturb your peace of mind. The Revolutionary Dead is even more atmospheric and eccentric than its predecessor, with Camille going full Black Metal on vocals, roaring and gnarling deeply and rabidly, accompanied by the nonstop rumbling sounds coming from all instruments.

In Real and Sound, the main riff feels like a modern and obscure version of Judas Priest’s classic “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”, sounding very experimental and not as Black Metal as the other songs, all boosted by its wicked lyrics (“Longtime buried, my inner worlds without ends / Real enough, as long as I feed them / Reconstruct through invisible, through immanence / Where seems there’s none, I’ll grow as many senses as I can / Swarms of wounders? Crutches of faith / I’ll wash my time of those void-filled taints which prevents it to be / Let the wanderers see what they chose to see / The wounded put the S back to their realities”), whereas in Vieilles Pierres our talented multi-instrumentalist Camille slows things down a bit and sounds as mournful and eerie as possible, delivering another solid fusion of Atmospheric Black Metal with more avantgarde nuances and ending in an ethereal way before he comes crushing with the pulverizing Avantgarde Black Metal hymn Crawl of Concretes,  with the poetic words flowing from his vocals exhaling madness, despair and rage (“Oh precious trees and smells, priceless paths / Sceneries of inner legends… / I knew it alive, I knew it lived in these green brown darknesses / Felt it swarming with earth magick, felt it thrive in harmonies”).

In the somber Danced there isn’t a single second of peace or hope for our minds, it’s just an avalanche of darkened sounds blasted by Camille in the form of Avantgarde Black Metal infused with hints of progressiveness, with a classic Black Metal aura generated by the song’s unstoppable blast beats. Furthermore, madness just keeps growing in intensity until the song’s slashing finale, setting the stage for Dreams of the Drowned’s cover version for the song Midnattskogens Sorte Kjerne, originally released by Norwegian Avantgarde Black Metal entity Dodheimsgard in their 1995 album Kronet Til Konge (take a listen at the original version HERE). Featuring Norwegian musician Aldrahn (from The Deathtrip, Thorns and Urarv) on vocals, who’s by the way the song’s original inceptor, this is indeed a sensational version by Dreams of the Drowned, maintaining the song’s primeval core essence intact while at the same time adding his own devilish twist, with the guitars sounding truly mesmerizing. And in order to give a proper conclusion to the album and beautifully close the circle, Camille offers the phantasmagorical instrumental outro Dream III, showcasing strident guitars and low-tuned bass that will pierce your skull ruthlessly.

In summary, although Avantgarde Black Metal might not be considered an easy listen to the average fan of rock and metal music, Dreams of the Drowned I ends up being a recommended album for newcomers to the cryptic and eccentric sounds of the genre, partially thanks to the above average production of the album, making its overall sound a lot clearer and sharp than several similar bands and albums, but mainly due to the undisputed creativity and dexterity presented by Camille in each and every song. Hence, don’t forget to pay Camille a visit on Facebook, subscribe to his YouTube channel, and if the music found in Dreams of the Drowned I truly soothes your soul and captivates your thoughts, you can purchase the album from the band’s own BandCamp page or from the Duplicate Records’ BandCamp page. Because, in the end, by showing your utmost support now to Camille and his Dreams of the Drowned, I’m pretty sure he won’t take another ten years to provide our avid ears more of his dark and enthralling music.

Best moments of the album: The Revolutionary Dead and Crawl of Concretes.

Worst moments of the album: Vieilles Pierres.

Released in 2019 Drowned Anthems Records/Cult Of Nine Records

Track listing
1. Dream I (Instrumental) 3:05
2. Conciliabules 6:32
3. The Revolutionary Dead 5:47
4. Real and Sound 6:28
5. Vieilles Pierres 6:48
6. Crawl of Concretes 6:57
7. Danced 9:22
8. Midnattskogens Sorte Kjerne (Dodheimsgard cover) 8:43
9. Dream III (Instrumental) 3:08

Band members
Camille – vocals, guitars, bass, drums, synths

Guest musician
Aldrahn – vocals on “Midnattskogens Sorte Kjerne”

Album Review – Ophe / Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude (2018)

An avantgarde and experimental album of Black Metal infused with dark atmospheres and nuances, meticulously put together by a one-man army hailing from France.

Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude, or “letter to the sad comfort of solitude” from Latin, is not only the brand new album by French Avantgarde Black Metal one-man army Ophe, but also a very avantgardish and experimental piece of Black Metal fixing without any doubt a new limit to the borders of a sound that is a personal mix of Extreme Metal, avantgarde music and dark atmospheres. Recorded and mixed by Edgard Chevallier at Lower Tones Place Studio, and featuring a glamorous artwork painted by the talented French artist Jeff Grimal, Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude will bring an obscure joy to the hearts of fans of the music by bands such as Fleurety, Blut Aus Nord, Manes, Anorexia Nervosa and Aevangelist.

Formed in 2015 in Châtillon, a commune in the southwestern suburbs of Paris, by multi-instrumentalist Bargnatt XIX, better known for being the voice and guitar for French Avantgarde project Område, Ophe will certainly crush your senses throughout the 36 minutes of distorted passages, wicked noises and eerie gnarls in Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude, with the sonic extravaganza crafted by Bargnatt XIX being beautifully complemented by the saxophone schizophrenia delivered by guest musician Val Dorr (of Aevangelist). In other words, open your mind, let the music by Ophe penetrate deep inside your soul, and the way you view extreme music will never be the same again.

In the opening track, titled Somnum Sempiternum (which means “everlasting sleep” or ‘eternal sleep” from Latin), Bargnatt XIX begins firing Stygian riffs and blast beats together with his hellish gnarls in a vibrant and classy display of Atmospheric Black Metal, with the music getting darker, more fiendish and more demented as time goes by. Furthermore, the wicked saxophone sounds by Val Dorr add a touch of lunacy to the overall result, making the whole song even more delightful. Then we have Decem Vicibus (or “ten times” from Latin), a very obscure composition with the spoken words by Bargnatt XIX sounding smooth but perturbing at the same time, not evolving to any regular type of music you might be accustomed to. Well, that’s the beauty of Ambient Black Metal, as the creepiest sounds can become high-quality music just like that. And medieval, somber background noises set fire to an uncanny creation by Ophe named in XVIIII, with the sax by Val Dorr sounding even more disturbing than before, while Bargnatt XIX’s deep, enraged roars match perfectly with the hypnotizing heavy sounds emanating from all other instruments, in special the delicate and electrified guitar riffs and solos.

Missive Amphibologique D’Une Adynamie A La Solitude, a long and stylish song name that means “amphibological missive of an adynamy to loneliness” from French, is an 11-minute phantasmagoric aria that can easily be used as the soundtrack to your darkest nights, with its blast beats and ferocious growls bringing total chaos to our souls. And the song’s intense insanity goes on and on, with no sign of happiness or joy, courtesy of Bargnatt XIX and Val Dorr who generate a wall of strained, striking and grim sounds and tones in what can be considered a “controlled chaos”. Lastly, after such grandiose havoc it’s time to slow things down in Cadent, where Bargnatt XIX soothes our souls with his semi-acoustic lines embraced by an apocalyptic background to give it a beyond atmospheric vibe, closing the experimental journey by our skillful one-man army in a beautiful way.

In case you want to join the eccentric world of Bargnatt XIX and his Ophe, you can visit the project’s Facebook page for more details about such distinct endeavor, listen to Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude on Spotify, and purchase the album from Ophe’s own BandCamp page, from My Kingdom Music’s Big Cartel page, from the Season of Mist webstore, and from the JPC webstore, as well as from your regular retailers iTunes, Amazon and Discogs. And if this enticing album is Bargnatt XIX’s personal letter to the sad comfort of solitude, I can’t wait to see who or what he’s going to write a letter to next.

Best moments of the album: Somnum Sempiternum and XVIIII.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 My Kingdom Music

Track listing
1. Somnum Sempiternum 8:38
2. Decem Vicibus 4:33
3. XVIIII 5:45
4. Missive Amphibologique D’Une Adynamie A La Solitude 10:40
5. Cadent 5:16

Band members
Bargnatt XIX – vocals, all instruments, programming

Guest musician
Val Dorr – saxophone