When asked in interviews, Sorcier Des Glaces frontman Sèbastien Robitaille calls his band’s style “Cold Primitive Metal.” It fits. The Quèbècois duo’s back catalogue has kept the classics from thawing, dusting northern sky blazes with a fresh coat of frost. Proudly stuck in time, the icy wizards’ world is one before genre prefixes, where blasts, tremolos, and rasped vocals rule like they did back then, and will continue to do so.
But Robitaille (vocals, guitars, bass) and Luc Gaulin (drums) have worked hard to find their own voice. Though their influences are static, the two have changed since their 1998 debut, Snowland. “Rites Of The Black Moon,” from their sixth album, North, is distinctly SDG, but also more muscular, cleaner, and more focused. The economy of the lead melodies is a nice offset to the busy percussion, giving the “Rites” a Tales From The Thousand Lakes-like inroads for unfamiliar listeners. Sure, it’s evil as hell, all kinds of frostbite and sub-zero windchill, but the unfussiness and relative uncomplicated delivery is inviting. Without many set boundaries, black metal can spiral out of control. However, Robitaille and Gaulin have put in the reps and they know their limits. It feels like there’s a strong guiding hand leading you along their compositions.
Elsewhere, check out the rolling, timpani-esque percussion that pops up in the opening section of “La Noirceur Èternelle“, North’s first preview. It’s similar to Snowland’s overture, but it’s cleaner and more concise. It’s also a wonderfully organic timbre offsetting the blast that sounds like a vending machine having a seizure. Family tree: Bathory? Yeah, maybe. The unhurried, gliding melodies, though? The in-the-pocket confidence that comes with veteran status? That “terrior” as Robitaille calls it? That’s SDG.
That said, why trace #TBTs when you have seven minutes of “Rites Of The Black Moon”? Robitaille works all of his instruments to create an expansive aural landscape. Storytelling by soundwave is a hacky way of putting it, but the sections, either fast or slow, are stitched together into a varied panorama. Frequent tremolo miles feel like they’ve been logged. Of course, that quality is thanks to the duo’s evolving abilities, both at playing and editing their own work. In particular, Gaulin’s driving snare thwaps keep things together. All in all, “Rites” is a familiar sound with its own shape. Where some bands spend a career accumulating styles, Sorcier Des Glaces are content to perfect one.
North is out 2/29 via Obscure Abhorrence Productions.