Peste Noire has always been a hard pill to swallow. This grotesquely raw outfit out of Avignon, France has always embraced the uglier side of black metal. The face of Peste Noire is former Alcest member La Sale Famine de Valfunde, a maniacal and possibly insane genius with a passion for Symbolist poets like Verlaine and Baudelaire. A controversial figure, the very quotable Famine has publicly flirted with Nazi imagery and nationalist ideals, and Peste Noire has always walked the fine line of NSBM without actually committing. Famine is also quick to dismiss Neige’s contribution to the band during his brief involvement (“bunch of usurping whores” – interview with Diabolical Conquest).
Released in 2007, “Folkfuck Folie”, Peste Noire’s second full-length, is an unrefined, undercooked classic. The songs bitingly short and Famine’s shrieks and howls sit like poison on your tongue and the lyrics are even viler.
2009’s “Ballade cuntre lo Anemi Francor” pushed the envelope a little too far for the faint of heart. Although an excellent album at its core, the jarring and disjointed outer layers required commitment and patience on the part of the listener. Peste Noire had created an album reflecting Famine’s own line of thinking: “we only respect ourselves and do what we do only for our own pleasure.”
Peste Noire’s latest effort, released by La Mesnie Herlequin, is trial by fire. The hour-long “L’Ordure a l’etat Pur” has the ability to endear itself to listeners while simultaneously scaring them off. Keep in mind this is the mental outpouring of a man who once threatened to make a reggae Peste Noire album.
“L’Ordure a l’etat Pur” starts as the black metal album every black metal album wants to be when it grows up: The intro manages to include howling wolves, clanging bells, indecipherable screeching and acoustic guitar. A folk flavored riff creeps in, building up into a low-fi foot-tapper with the sensory appeal of Darkthrone’s ‘Transilvanian Hunger’. But don’t get too comfortable, “Casse, Pêches, Fractures et Traditions” is eleven-minutes long. Shit gets weird around the five-minute mark, and we walk into some kind of demented, World/Inferno Friendship Society Parisian circus. Personally, I prefer brass to be kept out of my black metal and in the hands of jazz and ska professionals, but admittedly it sometimes works… Not so much this time.
The second track, “Cochon Carotte et les sœurs Crotte,” begins with a few seconds of spoken French before launching into a drum track straight off any Mindless Self Indulgence album. The whirling, high-pitched body of “Cochon Carotte et les soeurs Crotte” is like a hard style coke-fuelled carousel ride you can’t escape and I’m pretty sure there’s sex, lots of sex.
It has to be mentioned that those not familiar with Famine’s vocals may be turned off after wincing their way through the first song. But for seasoned listeners, or persevering ears, the haunted wails emerging from his chest pierce through yours. It’s bestial and twisted, the amount of fucks given hovering somewhere between Lifelover and Silencer. The diversity of whispering and keening vocals, and the intriguing way they mesh together, is a testament to Peste Noire’s awesome weirdness.
“J’avais rêvé du Nord” is a terrifying twenty-one minutes in length, but like a pint of gin only becomes increasingly palatable from start to finish. Initially, the electro pulsing and percussion from the previous track still linger, with an industrial haze and a darkly repetitive, plodding riff. The rave ends after a few minutes, and classically played guitar takes the stage for an almost medieval performance. Surprisingly lovely female vocals are introduced for what could pass for a traditional French madrigal, transforming into prettier-sounding pagan black metal, airlifted by the acoustic work. But on “L’Ordure a l’etat Pur“, much like the lifespan of metalcore sub-genres, nothing lasts forever. I’ll just say that the last few minutes will have you wishing you and your pals were clanging mugs at the local tavern.
“Sale Famine von Valfoutre” and “La Condi Hu” should satisfy traditionalists and anyone who actually takes metal seriously. No experimental bullshit, just straight up French black metal served raw and bloody. Not a bad moment between the two, and a shockingly gentle ending to an album full of ridiculous surprises.
The fact still stands that Peste Noire isn’t for everyone. There’s a certain internal barrier that must be crossed in order to appreciate and enjoy the trial and error that is “L’Ordure a l’etat Pur”. This is balls to the wall Burzum.
If you have an issue with this album, you’re in luck. Famine is “available at any time of the day for a fistfight or any type of sword or crossbow duel.”