Album Review – Forteresse / Thèmes pour la Rébellion (2016)

Métal Noir Québécois at its finest by the progenitors of the genre, enfolded by pure insurgency and a strong sense of patriotism.

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sp044One of my favorite expressions in heavy music is “Métal Noir Québécois”, not only because it sounds beautiful, but mainly due to the fact it truly represents the unity, patriotism and epicness of Extreme Metal hailing from “la belle province” of Quebec. That powerful designation was originated back in 2006 when Atmospheric Black Metal act Forteresse, formed that same year in Quebec City, released their debut album titled Métal Noir Québécois, and now ten years later this talented quartet  reinforces even more the concept they created with their fifth installment named Thèmes pour la Rébellion.

Singing (obviously in French) about the history of Quebec and its separatist movement, Forteresse continue their rebellious and vengeful path thoroughly built through the years within each of their releases, with Thèmes pour la Rébellion being a further step from their previous release, their 2011 album Crépuscule d’Octobre. If you love dark and dense sounds with a passionate and violent storyline behind them, this album will definitely blow your mind, and even if you’re not a huge connoisseur or admirer of Black Metal there’s still a lot to enjoy in all eight tracks from an album that, above all things, lives up to the recent but already distinguished legacy of Métal Noir Québécois.

The intro Aube De 1837 (“dawn of 1837”), inspired by the Rebellions of 1837, takes you into the battlefield, setting the tone to Spectre De La Rébellion (“spectrum of the rebellion”), emanating blast beats and an infernal atmosphere from its very first second, with Athros transpiring pure rebelliousness and anger through his harsh growls. Although it sounds like old school Black Metal at first, I believe we can call this Epic Black Metal due to its rising energy, its more melodious lines and its truly climatic ending. In the also dense Là où Nous Allons (“there where we are going”), guitarists Matrak and Moribund fire extreme aggression through their riffs and solos, while drummer Fiel accelerates his beats even more, generating the perfect background for the song’s belligerent lyrics (“Armez-vous de vos mousquets les plus fidèles / La charge sera brutale et sans pitié / La monnaie des cartes est inutile là où nous allons / À l’aube, le destin aura été scellé”). At this point of the album, you’ll be already able to realize all songs will be epic from start to finish, with no exceptions.

forteresse-2016aForteresse’s metallic artillery do not cool down in the slightly less destructive and more melodic Par la Bouche de Mes Canons (“through the mouth of my cannons”), with highlights to the amazing job done by Matrak and Moribond on guitars once again, while Athros keeps sending an insurgent message through his combative vociferations. In addition, you can sense the pain and anger growing towards the end of the song, which ends up working as a bridge to the magnificent Le Sang des Héros (“the blood of heroes”), where a wicked intro with a short narration explodes into sheer brutality. This is high-end Black Metal where Athros and Fiel unleash hell on earth, an intricate composition that fills the air with hatred and sorrow, with its nonstop electricity and endless pugnacity helping turn this into one of the best moments of the album (needless to say, I would love to witness them playing this song live).

The last part of the album begins with Forêt d’Automne (“autumn forest”), where traditional riffs continue to spread darkness whereas Fiel delivers more of his rhythmic and complex beats and fills, not to mention that, as the story advances, you’ll notice Athros gets more and more enraged on vocals. Vespérales (“vesperal”), the second to last tune, brings forward more violence and anger, being one of the most epic of all songs with its seven minutes of cutting riffs, vicious growls and a fierce atmosphere, an amazing example of what Métal Noir Québécois truly is; followed by Le Dernier Voyage (“the last voyage”), an outro that beautifully represents a real aftermath, with its atmospheric passages signing the war is finally over, therefore concluding such a great album on a melancholic but strong note.

You can take a good listen to this thrilling album in its entirety HERE, as well as visit Forteresse’s Facebook page to know more about the band and their music. And in order to provide them your full support, go buy your copy of Thèmes pour la Rébellion at the Sepulchral Productions’ webstore, at Discogs or at the Season of Mist’s webstore. Forteresse do not just offer Métal Noir Québécois, they do it almost to perfection to guarantee you understand and absorb everything they want to tell you through their music. This is Métal Noir Québécois at its finest, and if I were you I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to join Forteresse’s army and get into the battlefield alongside them.

Best moments of the album: Spectre De La Rébellion and Le Sang des Héros.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Sepulchral Productions

Track listing
1. Aube De 1837 0:46
2. Spectre De La Rébellion 5:33
3. Là où Nous Allons 6:09
4. Par la Bouche de Mes Canons 6:14
5. Le Sang des Héros 6:51
6. Forêt d’Automne 5:20
7. Vespérales 6:59
8. Le Dernier Voyage 4:55

Band members
Athros – vocals, additional guitars, additional keyboards
Matrak – lead guitars
Moribond – rhythm guitars, bass
Fiel – drums, keyboards

Live musician
G. – bass

Interview – Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear)

Let’s get ready for Power Metal icons Primal Fear to “deliver the black” here in Canada next month with this exclusive interview with one of the best and most respected metal singers in the world, the amazing Mr. Ralf Scheepers. Metal is forever!

Ralf ScheepersThe Headbanging Moose: First of all, I have to say that the new Primal Fear album, Delivering the Black, is a true Heavy Metal masterpiece and it will be for sure one of the best albums of 2014. There isn’t a single moment of the album that’s not pure and direct metal, especially the kick-ass songs King for A Day, Rebel Faction, Inseminoid and Delivering The Black. How was the creative process of the album, and how were you able to come up with such fast and powerful music even after almost 20 years of the first Primal Fear album?

Ralf Scheepers: Thank you very much! I’m glad that you like it!

We are in the great situation to have 4 writing members in Primal Fear, so basically we come up with many different ideas for an album and put them together as a short list of which could be on the album and which might fit to the flowing of an album. This is also a very important key when you put an album together. This time Mat and Magnus were coming up with the basic playbacks of the tracks and we sat together and worked on vocal melodies and lyrics. For some tracks I have worked on the playbacks to find my ideas on it and some of them were written together, as mentioned before.

This is basically how we are working on every album.

THM: I’ve been checking the music charts and it seems that Delivering the Black is doing extremely well, especially in Europe and Japan, and of course the band is huge in South America too. However, it’s not that easy to find your music or many other Power Metal bands available in the stores here in Canada and in the rest of North America. How do you see this “cultural barrier” here in North America against many subgenres of Heavy Metal that are not Death or Thrash Metal? Do you believe the Internet is being of great help for bands like Primal Fear, Chthonic, Amon Amarth and many others to penetrate this quite conservative market?

RS: I don’t consider this as a cultural barrier rather than judging it by seeing the size of the continent and the fact that we all still have to struggle against the illegal downloads. So to answer your second part of the question: I see both sides. I see the possibility to promote yourself as an advantage and on the other side I see the illegal downloading as a disadvantage.

THM: Talking about German heavy music, the past few years have been amazing for most of the bands from your country. For instance, in 2014 we’ve already had really awesome albums from Primal Fear, Axel Rudi Pell, Van Canto, Iron Savior and Gamma Ray, last year we had one of the best Helloween albums of all time, there are also other excellent bands that are not Power Metal like Hard Rock band Motorjesus and Metalcore band Caliban, among others. In your opinion, what’s the secret for such a rich, diverse and creative heavy music scene in Germany? Is it just the beer, or is it something else?

Primalfeardeliveringtheblack2014

Album Review – Primal Fear / Delivering the Black (2014)

RS: It’s definitely the beer, yes! 🙂

Well I think we had the opportunity to jump into this genre as music fans in the 80’s, especially the NWOBH era was creating a lot of great musicians here in Europe…. It’s somehow learning by hearing. So if you had or have the talent to play the guitar or to play the drums or to sing, you change from a fan into a musician by yourself and that’s what happened a lot over here.

THM: Going back to the new album, there’s a very interesting partnership with the gorgeous Liv Kristine in the Japanese bonus track version of the ballad Born With A Broken Heart. How did you guys end up choosing her for this track? In my opinion, this version is more beautiful than the original one, so why didn’t you add it as a regular track instead? And after some stunning duets with Liv Kristine on the new Primal Fear album, Simone Simmons on New Religion, and Tim “Ripper” Owens on your solo album, who else would you love to record a Primal Fear or Scheepers song together on vocals and why?

Liv_and_Ralf

Liv Kristine & Ralf Scheepers

RS: The basic idea was to add a female voice to the chorus for this track, just as an interesting color and so we did that for the album version. For the Japanese bonus track we thought it would be a great idea to remix the track and use more of Liv’s input on it. It both worked out and we’re all happy about both results, for the album and for the bonus.

We never really plan those things in a long term rather than listening to the tracks we wrote. Sometimes we hear additional voices, male or female to add a different color to it. Sometimes we don’t see or hear the reason to do that.

THM: Regarding your solo album Scheepers, from 2011, you re-recorded a song from your Tyran’ Pace years, the excellent Saints of Rock. Why did you choose this song to be part of your debut solo album, and are there any plans for another Scheepers album soon? If so, is there anything you could share with us about it?

RS: As the idea for “Saints of Rock” came up from me back then in the 80’s I thought it would be a good idea to modern up the sound of this track on my solo album. It was so much fun to re sing this one and to do all voices of the chorus on my own this time. Back then Charlie Huhn (Victory) helped me out doing the choir.

There are no plans for another solo album. This year our focus is to tour the world.

THM: You’ve recently finished a series of concerts with the Rock Meets Classic Tour 2014. How did you get invited to be part of this project, how was the overall experience, who were some of the musicians there with you, and what were the highlights of the tour for you?

Rock Meets Classic 2014

Rock Meets Classic 2014

RS: As Mat Sinner is the musical director and co producer of this event he thought it would be a good idea to add some male voices to the already existing female choir. So he has offered me the possibility to join in and I did. In the second and third year I was alone as a male choir member and in the forth and fifth year Sascha Krebs (Musical artist) has joined in. It was and still is a great experience every year! To be on stage with some of my idols and stars from the 80’s music scene is simply an amazing experience! It’s great fun. Every night you hear those popular tracks combined with the classical sounds of strings, trumpets and trombones, it gives me shivers and goose bumps. It’s an amazing vibe and atmosphere on stage!

We had Ian Gillan, Lou Gramm, Paul Rodgers, Alice Cooper feat. Orianthi, Joe Lynn Turner, Steve Lukather, Eric Bazilian, Jimi Jamison, Mick Box and Bernie Shaw from Uriah Heep, Steve Augeri, Midge Ure, Marc Storace, Dan McCafferty, Bonnie Tyler, Robin Beck and Kim Wilde with us. This is listed in no particular following.

THM: You’re not only the frontman of Primal Fear, but you also have your solo career, you’re part of different music projects such as Rocks Meets Classic, you’re a vocal coach, you provide singing lessons, you’re a microphone development consultant, you provide file processing, among many other activities, including your personal life where you have to take care of your son, work out at the gym etc. How are you able to manage all that? And what’s the advice you have for any artists and musicians that want to perform as well as you do on stage without losing track of all other things in life?

RS: I simply juggle duties and do not do everything at the same time! 🙂

Sometimes my focus is more on one thing and then again on the others when it’s necessary. To set priorities is the overall key to all this. I think as a grown up person you don’t need any advices to handle your life right? 🙂

Primal FearTHM: There haven’t been any Primal Fear concerts in Canada since 2010, and even before that there were only very few Canadian dates whenever the band came to North America. Now that you have a fairly bigger tour with four concerts schedule in Canada for 2014, in Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, what is the band preparing for your Canadian fans so eager to see you guys playing live again? Will there be any special songs in the setlist, or any other surprises at all?

RS: We are all looking forward to this and we are happy that there are more cities planned for Canada this year! In our existing setlist we have tried to add the most significant songs. On the other hand we also took care that there is a reasonable change in the flow of the songs of our live set.

THM: Which bands or artists (including all types of music) do you enjoy listening while at home with your family, at the gym or on the road? What about Canadian bands or artists, what are your favorite ones and why? And are there any new bands from anywhere in the world you would recommend us?

RS: When I have time to listen to other music I listen to every kinds of genres. I’m very open to all kinds of bands and songs with melodies. As I am not really up date what’s new at the market I am not able to recommend anything right now.

THM: Thank you very, very much for your time. Please feel free to send a final message to your fans here in Canada and to invite everyone to the Primal Fear concerts here. I’ll be there at the Mod Club on May 3 in Toronto to bang my head with some pure Heavy Metal, no doubt about that!

RS: As mentioned above we are looking forward to perform in more cities of Canada this year! It would be awesome if you all could join in for a show in your city and to rock out and hang out with us for a non alcoholic beer or two. 🙂

Primal Fear North America 2014 – Canadian dates

Primal Fear_NA_2014

May 1, 2014 – Quebec City, Quebec | Le Cercle TICKETS
May 2, 2014 – Montreal, Quebec | Foufounes Électriques TICKETS
May 3, 2014 – Toronto, Ontario | Virgin Mobile Mod Club TICKETS
May 11, 2014 – Vancouver, British Columbia | Venue Nightclub TICKETS

Links
Ralf Scheepers Official Website | Facebook
Primal Fear Official Website | Facebook