“La Sale Famine de Valfunde”, or Famine as he shall be known from here on in, is somewhat of an enigma. The only way to describe his take on Black Metal is ‘unique’. He’s done almost it all, from bone grindingly raw to Thrashy and Post-Punk to epic neoclassical dirges to eventually now what I can only describe as ’Carnival Black Metal’. “L’Ordure A L’Etat Pur”, the fourth full length to emerge from Famine’s deranged mind couldn’t be further from the magnificent, almost romantic “La Sanie Des Siècles”. This will only further the criticism of those exasperated at the direction Famine has steered the band in since then. Admittedly a return to that album would certainly be well received, but Famine doesn’t appear to be a man for nostalgia, and to these ears it’s almost as if “L’Ordure...” is another ‘fuck you’ to those who try to dictate what PESTE NOIRE should sound like. I don’t think Famine himself knows half the time what he wants them to sound like if this album is anything to go by. So what’s it like then? In short, one of those car crashes where everything is so mangled you can’t take your eyes off it.
The only traits that “L’Ordure...” keep in common with any of the previous PESTE NOIRE albums is the huge amount of nationalism ever present throughout the course of their career. From borrowing various works from French poets to naming your album “Ballad Against The Enemies Of France”, it’s something Famine is obviously hugely passionate about. And of course the fact it’s Black Metal, albeit very different from anything they’ve ever really done before. “Casse, Pêches, Fractures Et Traditions” sets the ball rolling with some light acoustics and peculiar guitar work before we’re lashed with Famine’s vocals, which if you’ve not heard before can be hard to get your head around initially. They cite themselves as ‘Hooligan Black Metal’, and you can see why when listening to his crude throat scraping howls which at times sound like a drunken Frenchman throwing a tantrum. Initially it doesn’t sound too far off “Ballade...”, and contains some fantastic strong riffing before the freak show comes around; horns, trombones, accordions and various samples including Famine belching and a cockerel proceed to warp what initially sounded like a solid Black Metal tune into something which leaves you with that initial thought of wondering just what the fuck you listened to. If I had to make any sort of comparison at all I’d compare it to a Black Metal carnival on the banks of the Seine full of zombies. I even hear what almost sounds like a French TOM WAITS in there at times. I realise that sounds a little absurd, then again so does half this album.
Now we come to the hard style-esque (yes that’s right) “Cochon Carotte et les Sœurs Crotte” with its incessant horrible thumping drum track and Famine’s demented wailing, it’s like a Black Metal equivalent to the music you’d hear at your local funfair. Only with lots of drugs.
“J’avais Rêvé du Nord” continues with the repressed pulsating electronics with added munitions sampling for around three minutes before transforming into an acoustic, folky passage with our ever enchanting Audrey Sylvain providing her alluring vocals as well as dove impersonations (that’s talent right there!). Eventually we get some welcome unashamed Black Metal after some medieval guitar work, thundering drums, razor wire riffing and slightly less bizarre vocals and the relief floods in that Famine still definitely has it. For a twenty minute song it’s incredibly diverse and engaging throughout, though monotony was never a problem for PESTE NOIRE; one of the attributes that set them apart from the others in the first place.
The final two tracks are more straight forward with the anomalies less frequent, though Famine still sounds as if he’s shouting random incoherent nonsense than singing lyrics more often than not. “Sale Famine Von Valfoutre” still has that melodic yet piercing guitar tone and altogether unattached and chaotic attitude PESTE NOIRE are known for while “La Condi Hu” for me is the highlight of the release. It’s shockingly laid back for PESTE NOIRE never mind the album itself, sounding more like something Neige would release with its light picking coupled with heavily distorted melodic riffs, Famine’s rather distressed vocals and spoken word by Audrey. This showcases Famine’s song writing abilities at their very best, proving that when he’s not fucking around he can write some extremely stirring music.
Casual fans of Black Metal I would suggest avoiding this, for it’s not an easy listen. The first half of the album is basically a menagerie of deranged inspirations and obscenities that Famine has concocted in his bizarre mind and unleashed them onto a disc. The latter half is unique, but still unmistakably PESTE NOIRE as we know them. At times it’s utterly fantastic and immersive, sardonic and brash; others will just end up giving you a headache and the rest will leave you perplexed, bemused and feeling a little bit used. You want a perfect representation of the album? Just look at the cover, their own amusing take on “Liberty Leading The People”. There’s a guy with a fucking toilet seat for a head for god’s sake.
(Online February 8, 2012)