Unapologetically heavy and worth digging out time and again…
Review by Jason Guest
Release date: 19 September 2015
Another new band to these ears, album number two from France’s Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, Exile, is one of those records that gives you a stern telling off for not having heard of the band before and insists that you must catch up with all that they have released previously. With the tropes of sludge and post-black metal fleshed out with opaque and overpoweringly intense and weighted atmospherics, to say this is a heavy piece of work is a gross understatement.
The three-minute opening instrumental ‘L’Exil’ carves out a dark place before, about a minute or so in, against a cascade of sludge-infused blackened rage, melody after stirring melody continues to cut the air. The riffs crushing, the drums hard, the vocals torn, and the concentrated structure unforgiving, ‘A Sheep Among Wolves’ is a bruising hymn to the emptiness found within the empty promises of religious devotion. Powerful, potent, and punishing, at just over seven minutes it’s an impressive piece that holds you in its grip for the duration. So too ‘Embrace The Flames’. Similar in tone and texture, the track seems to grow out of ‘A Sheep…’, taking the riffs and the atmospherics into darker and more merciless territory. Three tracks in fifteen minutes and Regarde Les Hommes Tomber have dragged us deep into some twisted abyss ruptured by the sheer weight of its own despair and dejection.
As if in awareness of the weight of this burden, the two minute mystic haze that is the instrumental ‘They Came…’ is positioned perfectly at centre of the album. Here, there’s a sense of arrival that is unnervingly foreboding, as if the hollow within which we take respite is preparation for something much bigger than what we’ve been through so far. Enter ‘…To Take Us’ and the band are again slamming us up against the wall of disappointment and disaffection with a torrent of savage riffs, harsh vocals, ruthless and precisely carved drums strewn with mournful and melancholic passages that make the journey a disturbing one. The defiant ‘Thou Shall Lie Down’ drags the tempo down for a suitably colossal six minutes of distorted and contorted ruin, the latter half leaning on the black and the atmospheric before feedback mounts and we are faced to confront the closing track alone.
During the second half of the album, there are times when the album feels like the intensity levels peeked before ‘They Came…’ appeared midway, but with ‘The Incandescent March’, the album finishes on a low so heavy, so bleak, so crushingly commanding that you can’t help but be floored by it. In just over eleven minutes, we get the atmospheric, the melodic, the melancholic, the bleak, the battering and the affecting wrapped up in an array of musical diversity and complexity that when it finally ends, the effect of this album’s journey is fully realised. A stunning piece.
Like their eponymous debut (check it out here), this plots a similar arc and follows a similar structure – an instrumental to open and another (sort of) midway with much as much sonic diversity in the other tracks as on this album – and shows how much the band have refined their sound in the past two years. Whatever flaws it may have – the vocals sometimes feel swamped by the music and the bottom heavy mix detracts from the overall effect – this is an unapologetically heavy album and one worth digging out time and again.
8 out of 10
- A Sheep Among The Wolves
- Embrace The Flames
- They Came…
- …To Take Us
- Thou Shalt Lie Down
- The Incandescent March