Quebec has built up an incredible roster of black metal bands over the past two decades, and no matter whether you’re looking for traditional or atmospheric takes on the genre there are artists that have something to offer. Givre skews towards the latter with their latest full-length Destin Messianique, which explores the idea of atoning side of pain and religious devotion of the people of their home region. With historical exploration and mystique driving the lyrics and equal amounts of somber beauty and jagged aggressiveness driving the instrumentation, this is a haunting effort that finds ways to get under your skin.
While not as overtly medieval in theme, the historical angle and way that the instrumentation is woven together gives an ancient and mysterious sound to Destin Messianique. This is achieved through both traditional and atmospheric black metal, with the slower pacing and harsher layers of the latter leaning towards the depressive end of the spectrum. Songs like “Le laboureur” build up methodically with repetitive drumming and wistful guitar work that seems to move to a common rhythm, not unlike that of its titular laborer. Other tracks up the rage and aggression factor, letting loose with some scorching guitar leads that give way to more introspective and subdued melodies. During its softer moments I was reminded of bands like Hypothermia, though Givre keeps enough traditional black metal in their arsenal to forge a sound that comes off a bit different. While some of the material does follow some similar patterns, the way that they reach their peaks varies and there are quite a few passages that get under your skin with their haunting and tense atmosphere. Whether it’s the reverberating church bells tolling over top of the blast beats on “Érable rouge” or the melodies that seem to dance on “Dernier martyr”, there’s plenty of substance to Destin Messianique and it’s kept me coming back for more. The production values also help to balance things out, as they allow the melodies to breathe without losing the rawness of the guitar and bass, ensuring these songs still hit hard when they need to.
The vocals are likely to be the element that determines if Givre’s material clicks with you or not, as they lean significantly into the pain and anguish and come through in the form of tortured screams and shrieks. This is where some of that depressive black metal feeling comes through, and the way that the shrillness and ear-piercing qualities of the screaming contrasts with the softness of the melodies leaves a lasting impression. Givre does space things out in a way that prevents things from feeling repetitive, and they have a knack for integrating spoken word samples and other elements that contribute to the mysterious and haunting feeling that is present throughout the album. But one of the most surprising moments comes around the end of “Le laboureur”, where the screams subside, and very low-pitched singing takes over. It’s a downright beautiful and somber moment that is textured by violin work and showcases that this band understands how some subtle accents can make their material that much more powerful.
I suspect that the vocals won’t be for everyone, but those of you who can appreciate the depressive and emotional side of black metal will likely find Givre to have captured something special on their latest full-length. They give a window into a past not often explored within the genre, and the way they move from haunting melodies to much more abrasive riffing gives Destin Messianique genuine impact. Yes, they do tread some similar territory from one song to the next, but it’s those subtle details and stunning peaks that have drawn me back and make this another exciting band from Quebec’s vibrant black metal scene. Destin Messianique is available from Eisenwald.