French black metal act Throane‘s debut album Derrière-nous, la lumière was one of the most criminally underrated releases of last year. Its swirling eddies of morose guitar and aching vocals entranced me from the first listen, and I was surprised and a little sad to see that it didn’t seem to make many other year end lists except for my own. Thankfully, the project is releasing a new full-length, Plus une main à mordre, and it already stands to up the ante considerably.
When approaching Throane, it is important to consider the whole of the package that is being presented. As Throane is the solo project of Dehn Sora, who is a graphic designer and visual artist by trade as well, the visual aspect of the band is worthy of just as much note here as the music. Indeed, it was Sora’s striking cover photography that drew me into Derrière-nous, la lumière in the first place, and the artwork presented on Plus une main à mordre is nothing short of spectacular. Sora has a gift for capturing the subject of his photography at their most intimate, displaying the dark emotions that people rarely show, even to those we consider the closest to us. Here we see a woman shaving her head. One look at the trepidation and fear on her face, and one could infer that this subject is probably someone suffering from cancer. Look more closely at her face, however. It’s more than just fear she shows us; there is a look of sadness there, of regret. Why is she alone during this obviously difficult time? Sora answers this in the album’s title, literally translated as “No Hand Left to Bite.” This is someone who has spent her life pushing away the people closest to her, and now in her time of need there is no one left beside her.
The visual elements of Plus une main à mordre feed into the musical elements as well. The lifetime of lashing out at others that culminates in a total personal isolation is reflected in an even darker sound compared to Derriere-nous. Throane’s new songs are less world-weary and more angry. The main elements are still there; the songs progress with a pounding, industrial-esque rhythm, while guitars provide washes of swirling melancholy alongside Dehn Sora’s tortured rasps. On Plus une main, however, the clarity of the production has been significantly increased. The vocals have been brought forward in the mix substantially, and the bass guitar stands out in the mix as well this time around. What’s more, the songwriting itself feels more fleshed out than on the debut. This is best exemplified on the album’s focal point, the closing title track. From an ambient intro, the song builds off of menacing guitars bathing the track in eerie dissonance, until suddenly, the whole song erupts in a glorious chorus as Dehn Sora delivers the albums most impassioned vocal performance alongside Amenra’s Colin Van Eekhout, fellow french songwriter Sylvaine, and fellow graphic designer Valnoir. As layer after layer is added, the song crescendos to heights previously unreached by the band, and sees the full realization of the emotional impact of Throane’s music.
Plus une main à mordre improves in every way on Throane’s debut. The changes made to the band’s sound give the songs more bite (pun intended), and the resulting album feels more emotionally varied than its predecessor. Derriere-nous perfectly captured the feel of crushing despair, but here we feel not only that but also anger, paranoia, and regret. The wider range of musical styles and emotions that run through this album takes an already compelling musical formula and turns it into something even more successful. If you missed out on Throane the first time around, you would be even worse off to miss this album too.