This album is so castle. Prepare your buttress.
Like the edifice that adorns the castle, Nature Morte, the debut album from multi-instrumentalist Orde, is a stately, even regal monument to genius design and breathtaking scope. It’s apparent immediately that Orde built this structure with masterful hand and eye, each stone and spoke a carefully planned element intended fully to support the entire castle and to cooperate with its adjacent pieces to render the whole all the more majestic. It’s almost perplexing to hear this level of craftsmanship in lo-fi, underground black metal, and yet the grandeur of Nature Morte is undeniable, its curtain walls rising up from the black mire of an analog moat like some austere, impenetrable fortress.
Travelers who visit the castle of Nature Morte report both its breath-taking beauty and its impregnability. Five solid, lofty tracks form its imposing curtain walls, with a sixth, wondrous bonus song looming up as the final spire from within the keep. Each individual track is composed of a rock-solid foundation of mid-paced drum beats and classic black metal riffs. Although the pace never truly collapses into a rockslide of blast beats, the sturdy double bass and measured, intentional drum fills never feel garish or out of place; the drums are the mortar holding the bricks together, and their airtight lockstep with the rhythm guitar ensure that no trespassers will scale these walls. The riffs themselves are the crenellations of the castle, mounting the backbeat with a self-assurance and confidence of purpose that preserves the integrity of the castle’s defenses while still providing plenty of space for arrows and hot oil to come pouring down upon attackers. When he laid his hammer and mortar to the task of crafting these riffs, surely Orde followed the blueprints of the legendary architects before him, honoring Quorthon and Fischer before him while leaving his own seal upon his handiwork. Just listen to the Gothic resplendence of the first minute of “Balade à Dos de Démon” to hear the master at work.
Despite his dedication to the olde way, Orde hides many secrets within his castle walls as well. Throughout the album, melancholy, melodic leads soar above the rhythm like fearsome gargoyles upon the heights. Although the design of the castle is decidedly Gothic, even invoking the auspicious Notre-Dame Cathedral, there is a hint of classical Hellenic engineering in Orde’s lead work, and it’s impossible to deny the somberness of the Greek sound present in the final minutes of “La Furie du Fou” that fall like a mournful rain on the battlements of the fortress.
Most intriguing about the album, though, is Orde’s bass and vocal work. The bass guitar draws as much inspiration from the European tradition as it seemingly does the bluesy roots of the American South and the industrial malaise of gloomy England. There’s a furor and springiness to the basslines throughout the album that is unique in the black metal genre, and yet so fine-tuned is Orde’s craftsmanship that the jaunty low end never threatens to jar loose the impervious walls he has erected. Instead, the bass acts as a surprise attack, volleying out boulders with alarming alacrity from taut siege engines hidden behind the walls. You never see those thrumming basslines approaching until you’re already caught off-guard. The likely culprit of your surprise and the final piece of the puzzle is Orde’s vicious vocal approach. Throughout the album, though perhaps best heard on “La Halte,” Orde shrieks from the tallest spires with an echoing banshee wail; it continually sounds as though there are multiple demons crying out from different directions in the melancholy, melodic fog, and it’s always difficult to pinpoint from whence the next harrowing cry will issue. The vocals are the perfect capstone to the august structure, lending it both an edge and a grace that would be otherwise missing if the singing had been more conventional.
The most amazing part of this incredible castle is that you can visit it for free. Orde is offering his debut Dun effort completely for free on Bandcamp. While you’re there, you should definitely check out Dun’s second album Hors du Gouffre, released just this year. Although I haven’t yet gotten the chance to fully explore its mysterious passages, I know the album offers much of the same beauty, melancholy, and craftsmanship that makes Nature Morte. I’ve also seen others refer to the album as the best black metal release of the year, so explore its twisting corridors and find out for yourself here.
I hope to see you in the banquet hall of Orde’s regal estate.