Loïc Cellier, the lone member of BELENOS, is offering us a “something old and something new” release in “Chemins De Souffrance”. Divided into two chapters, the first four tracks are a completely re-recorded version of their third demo “Allégorie D’Une Souffrance” from 1998, while the latter four songs are completely new and go under the banner of “Le Chemins De La Mort”.
If you are afraid, though, that the nine years between the songs create a rift within the album, you’d be surprised, as it is hard to notice, but at the same time the Frenchman has not stood still in his evolution, quite the contrary. While maintaining close contact to his roots, the new songs still sound fresh and not like a rehash of the earlier works. “Chantes De Bataille” had been my first contact with BELENOS about two years ago and I loved it and that has not changed with “Chemins De Souffrance”.
Loïc knows exactly how to balance Black Metal fury with majestic melodies, including acoustic guitars and epic clear vocals, spanning the bridge between bands such as BORKNAGAR, BURZUM or ENSLAVED without degenerating into a copy of either of the three Norwegians (so yes, there is a certain pattern discernible), as it is the excellent mix of the different elements that make BELENOS so enjoyable. Sure, they will not break any new ground, but not everybody has to be able to do that, if they instead concentrate on the overall quality of the material, which thankfully is the case here.
Of the old material, take “Funeste Et Hivernal” as prime example, which will bring us the cold breath down your neck that Black Metal of the Nordic school will so masterfully create, but then soothes the frozen limbs with majestic melodies, acoustic guitars and some clear chanting, while “Le Domaine Des Songes - Acte I” unleashes more of the Black Metallic fury. Once we move on to the new tracks, the only real difference to the older material is that their arrangements are smoother and more mature, “Barrad Du” with its almost nine minutes is as epic as they come, once more combining all the different elements of BELENOS, including some very nice harmony solos towards the end, which we don’t get that often in this style. Epic probably is the best word to describe the latter four songs of “Chemins De Souffrance”, because Loïc seems to have found his inner epos, so to say, as all four songs contain extensive instrumental passages, often reflective, with this epic edge to carry you away, and I love it!
Once more BELENOS show that they (or should I rather say he?) are one of France’s leading exports in the realm of Melodic Black Metal, showing a remarkable knack for good melodies and fluid arrangements, never losing track of the Black Metal roots, but enriching them in an organic and harmonic way, thus creating some great songs that any genre fan should gobble up with ravishing hunger.
(Online March 10, 2008)