Numen - Numen
Les Acteurs de L'Ombre
Black/Folk Metal
6 songs (41:31)
Release year: 2011
Numen, Les Acteurs de L'Ombre
Reviewed by Charles
This is surely the only band I’ve ever reviewed that forms the case study of a paper in the European Journal of Cultural Studies. Black metal as an expression of vaguely nostalgic ethnocentrism is hardly new, but seems strangely apt in the case of the Basque country, mainly because of the language. More Ks and Zs than you can shake a contested national flag at, and the only surviving pre-Indo European language in Western Europe to boot- what could more perfectly suit black metal’s love of guttural sounds and old stuff?

Talking of old, Numen have been around well over a decade now, but evidently haven’t established an especially visible profile in the metal world. On the strength of this reissue of their 2007 self-titled third album, that’s not because they don’t have the sound for it. Despite the promo description emphasising their experimentation with the folk music of their native region, this is tightly polished and immensely enjoyable black metal in the rabidly fast mould of golden-age Satyricon, Immortal, Gorgoroth, or hell, even Enthroned. Folk elements are sparser than on this album’s predecessor (2004’s Basoaren Semeak) with barely any clean vocals, and traditional melodies and instrumentation generally constituting mere hints of melodic shade in the glaring heat of their pretty relentless up-tempo tirade. This is black metal, and for all we talk about local pagan traditions, its basic elements are pretty globalised.

The intensity on this album, actually, is absolutely blinding, and much of the time all the listener can do is cling on and ride out surprisingly lengthy tracks. Numen screech through tangled and twisting melodic tremolo lines which sear their shapes onto your eardrums like bright lights do to your eyes. Several tracks here last for over six minutes, one is even over ten, and the only real releases of tension are the abovementioned folk elements, which see the band periodically slipping into a bouncing triple time and flourishes of acoustic instrumentation momentarily seeping into the roaring electric sound.

All the more surprising, then, that boredom sets in so rarely. Picking highlights is like picking between angles at which a circular saw can be jammed into your face; everything is an exhilarating blur. But Gauaren irrifarre izkutua’s riffing is particularly notable, transitioning between jaggedly unpredictable lines that buck like an overloaded mule, and pleasantly simplistic passages in which there’s little else to do but revel in the trampling brutality of Alfred Berengena’s drumming. The vocals are often little more than a mad cackle. Belearen hegaldiak... iluntasuna dakar is similarly relentless, but features a rare moment of adulteration in the fleeting emergence of a Finntroll-like parping hurdy gurdy sound, which whirls away into the imperceptible distance almost as soon as it arrives. Opener Egunsentiaren heriotza represents the strongest nod towards ‘pagan’ elements, with mourning clean vocals and fluttering acoustic guitar spectres in the background hinting at influence from Ulver's Bergtatt. Such melodious moments are relatively epehemeral, however, and the overall character is a particularly vicious one. This is, in fact, an immensely enjoyable album that has re-energised my faith in ultra-orthodox black metal.

Killing Songs :
Gauaren irrifarre izkutua, Belearen hegaldiak... iluntasuna dakar
Charles quoted 80 / 100
1 readers voted
Your quote was: 90.
Change your vote

There are 1 replies to this review. Last one on Tue Apr 26, 2011 9:18 am
View and Post comments