By now, most of y’all are probably aware that the 2018 World Cup has concluded. On Sunday afternoon, France capped off a dominant tournament run by beating Croatia, 4-2, in the final. And while we’re not still dopey enough to commemorate the occasion with something like the “World Cup of Metal,” (Remember that? Gross.) we also weren’t going to let it go completely unnoticed. Hence, here we are with The Nine Circles ov France!
Side note before we begin: as much as I wanted Croatia to win it all, I also know exactly one Croatian metal band. (This one.) So, having preemptively claimed this post before the game, I’m low-key THRILLED that France and its comparably enormous metal scene ended up victorious. Okay, I’ll shut up now. Here we go…
With elements of tech-death, prog, groove metal and numerous other touch points in their sound, Gojira may be a hard band to categorize. They are not, however, a hard band to love. Even as they’ve evolved over the years — spare us your thoughts on Magma, please and thank you — they’ve retained an instantly identifiable quality to their sound throughout. Nobody really sounds like ’em, and I doubt anyone ever will.
Blut aus Nord
One of French black metal’s most important acts, Blut aus Nord is also one of its most adventurous — both musically and conceptually. With standard fare grim-and-frostbitten here, industrial and dark ambient elements there and a healthy amount of dissonance throughout, Vindsval and Co. offer up a little something for everyone. Even with the occasional misstep, this band is a force, pure and simple.
Technically, Trust was more of an AC/DC-styled hard rock band than anything. (Vocalist Bernard “Bernie” Bonvoisin was even close friends with beloved late AC/DC frontman Bon Scott.) Outside their homeland, they’re perhaps best remembered for being a landing spot for a couple of drummers — Clive Burr and Nicko McBrain (pictured above right) — better known for keeping time in Iron Maiden. But on their day, Trust could be fun as hell. Look no further than 1980’s Répression or 1983’s Idéal for proof.
If as many blackgaze fans paid attention to Alcest as do Deafheaven, the world would be a better place. That’s not intended to throw shit on Deafheaven, but rather to offer praise to the sterling work Neige and Winterhalter have done in their decade-plus together. Some Alcest songs may skew heavier or folkier than others, but nearly every Alcest song can pretty you to death. Yes, I just used “pretty” as a verb. Alcest makes such things possible.
And then, on the other side of the spectrum, there’s Aosoth. Aosoth doesn’t do “pretty,” in adjective or verb form. What they do do, however, is tremendous, freaking gut-churning black metal that, at its peak, feels like the auditory equivalent of a dementor’s kiss. 2013’s IV: Arrow in Heart was one of the first gifts I received on #metalbandcampgiftclub, and to this day, it’s still one of the most-listened-to records in my Bandcamp collection. Just devastating.
Eternal hails to the Power Metal Guru, Frank Santorelli, for this recommendation. Fairyland hails from the southern city of Nice, a port town surrounded by mountains of the Ligurian Alps — which is actually quite fitting, because these guys are pretty much exactly what I’d want to be listening to while bounding down a mountain, storming a ship and taking it to the open (Mediterranean) sea. Terrific blend of power and symphonic influences, with an unfairly catchy end product.
More terrifyingly evil black metal. It’s almost like the French are good at this stuff or something! At any rate, if Blut aus Nord wasn’t challenging enough for you, Deathspell might do the trick. Their discography may not have quite the same breadth, but good lord, will it take you places. Confusing places, perhaps, but good ones.
The Great Old Ones
Combining metal with Lovecraftian themes is…okay, fine…one of the biggest clichés in the book. But credit to Bordeaux’s The Great Old Ones where due — they find a way to make music that’s just about as terrifying as you’d expect the sight of a real-live Cthulhu to be. This is black metal that’ll stick with you, haunt your existing nightmares, and take your future ones to places you didn’t even think possible.
Last year, Lille duo Skelethal released their debut full-length, Of the Depths…, which pulled so heavily (and so well) from classic Stockholm death metal that, well…I did this in the intro of my review. I love Swedeath. Skelethal loves Swedeath. Therefore, by a somewhat transitive property, I love Skelethal.
There’s your nine! In summation, this is a stacked scene. I mean, this list covered some ground on its own, yet still omitted Svart Crown, Benighted, Antaeus, Nightmare, Agressor, and countless others. So, congrats to France — on their soccer and their metal.
Keep it heavy,