Forteresse are the standard bearers of Métal Noir Quebecois, a movement that encompasses what I think is one of the most intriguing and compelling black metal scenes out there today. The band is literally a rallying point. Forteresse feature members from other Quebec mainstays like Ephemer, Cantique Lépreux, Déliquescence, and Grimoire, to name a few, and Monarque contributed lyrics to one song on the new album.
But despite leading the charge, Forteresse have been pretty quiet since 2011’s awesome Crepuscule d’Octobre, with just one excellent contribution to a split since. Their return, Thèmes Pour La Rebellion, centers on Quebec’s 1837 rebellion. Albums that ostensibly sing about the past rarely sound this real or urgent, but for Forteresse, the fires never went out.
You hear that desperation in the breakneck tempo on “Lá Oú Nous Allons,” and you feel the sense of mission in its soaring lead. You lurch with the sways of fortune in the titanic swells just before the song’s midway point, and you almost taste victory. You still feel the bitter sting of defeat. Athros snarls his lyrics with rabid determination, bleeding grit. This isn’t a song just regaling great deeds of the fabled past, these are songs for action.
And so “Là Où Nous Allons” plays like a song for battle, with tom rolls that thunder below the epic din. Anxious anticipation builds from the lead-in riff and then it explodes and you’re racing to keep up. Forteresse songs have long featured a guitar lead that dances atop an underlying hurry-up offense, but it’s never all come together quite like this. Its now thick and muscular, with a cleaner mix that the label notes was done at Nocromorbus Studios in Stockholm, which has done work for Behexen, Watain, Tribulation, and many more. Now those leads blend into an engrossing whole, and Forteresse are better than ever for it.
“Là Où Nous Allons” and Thèmes Pour La Rébellion mark Forteresse’s 10th year as a band, and it’s a resounding triumph. Listen.