With Thèmes Pour la Rébellion, Forteresse offer yet more proof that Quebeckers craft the finest black metal in North America. Fans of Forteresse will be well aware that their new album coincides with the ten-year anniversary of the band’s most famous release to date: Métal Noir Québécois. Thèmes Pour la Rébellion reveals that, over the past decade, Forteresse have evolved only in subtle manners, merely tweaking the particulars while leaving their core fabric and artistic essence in tact. This conservative approach would reek of stagnation in the hands of lesser artists, but Forteresse can afford to stick to what works.
Forteresse’s work cannot be understood without realising the iconic nature of their Métal Noir Québécois album. Its title is in itself a strong statement; like the Norwegian term ‘svartmetall’, ‘métal noir québécois’ represents a departure from the English origins of the term, emphasizing its regionalist interpretation. Forteresse’s début album is of course not the first example of a distinctly Quebecker black metal style — that honour goes to Frozen Shadows’s Dans les Bras des Immortels (1997) — but it did provide the movement with an emblematic name. Furthermore, Forteresse contributed towards making the Quebecker black metal scene a hotbed for separatist sentiments, following the example of scene legends Akitsa.
Stylistically, Thèmes Pour la Rébellion barely differs from Métal Noir Québécois — at least at first glance. Songs typically follow one movement, with a lead guitar guiding simple melodies over a basis of tremolo riffing and rapid drumming. When this barrage of noise is not given due attention by the listener, it might come across as monotonous or unimaginative. However, repetition is one of Forteresse’s strengths: the riffs capture and hypnotize the listener. Subtle changes to these melodies not only prevent them from growing stale; they enrich the compositions, altering the listener’s comprehension of the music. Sparingly, the drums slow down, such as on “Vespérales”; then, when the band accelerates once more to its customary dashing pace, the music emerges reinvigorated, delivering hard melodic blows. Several off-beat choices, such as the brooding outro “Le Dernier Voyage” — which bears a striking resemblance to the opening riff of Immortal’s “Beyond the North Waves” — help the release craft its own identity.
In the end, Thèmes Pour la Rébellion may be tasking, as six out of its eight tracks consist of hyperactive black metal that leaves little room for breathing. Forteresse will have to do some more tweaking before they make the perfect album. If anything, their new album proves that this is a path worth exploring. Relying on Forteresse’s tried and tested formula, Thèmes Pour la Rébellion manages to stand among the year’s finest metal releases so far. The conclusion? More albums in this style are very much welcome.