If you’re familiar with my work around here, you know that I have a specific philosophy when it comes to death metal. I like my death metal like I like my steak: thick, beefy, juicy and I need to be left sweating and nearly comatose after consuming it. That being said, there’s always room for improvement on the original recipe, a little twist of seasoning to zhoozh the whole affair up. Enter Fange and their fourth full length Pudeur, who effortlessly take the tried and true death metal formula and pepper in a whole mess of electronic noise goodness.
Pudeur (modesty or decency) is the next release in the French outfit’s prolific career, marking their sixth overall outing in just seven years. While the band attests to a love-hate relationship with genre conventions, their roots are firmly planted in classic death metal ala old school Bloodbath, Entombed and Grave. Self-described as “ignorant music for the educated man,” the songs are chock full of slimy, sludgy guitar tones, humongous riffs and pounding beats that switch between driving the song forward at a frantic pace and chugging along at a crawl. Where the real spice comes in is the electronic accompaniment courtesy of guitarist/programmer/chief artist Benjamin Moreau. Moreau’s machines add an extra layer under the already dense riffing, providing an unsettling backdrop to the band’s furious sonic assault. Moreau makes up one third of the creative core of the band, with bassist/vocalist Antoine Perron and vocalist/lyricist Matthias Jungbluth rounding out the lineup. Fange has undergone a number of lineup changes in their career and on Pudeur, the band has been reduced to its bare essentials, with Moreau handling drum programming in addition to everything else. While not everyone is a fan of programmed drums, when you throw them in with the other electronics and experiment with different drum sounds throughout the album like Fange do, they become an indispensable part of the sound and add to the overall feel of the album in a unique way. Besides that, this album sees Fange at their most focused. Each track hits like a semi-truck and there is no unnecessary experimentation. Whether they’re rushing at you at breakneck speed or crushing you under a tremendous weight, it’s all heavy all the time.
Pudeur opens with “Soleils Vaincus,” which at once gives you the full impression of what you’re going to deal with on this album. Jungbluth’s guttural bellow quickly gives way to a slithering, crawling guitar riff layered over harsh, buzzing electronics and slamming drums in a furious cacophony that’s equal parts sensory overload and headbanging goodness. This is a very, very dense record, and if you’re not a fan of an almost constant level of noise, you might find this a little hard to listen to. Sometimes the riffs do get a little lost in the mix with everything else going on (I particularly miss the bass on most tracks), and things can get a little muddy in spots, but the overall effect is one of a smothering atmosphere, conjuring images of body horror and mental oppression, helped along by the stunning album artwork courtesy of Moreau. That’s not to say that every song on the album is the same, though. “Génuflexion” showcases a doomier, more guitar focused side of the band, while “Croix de Paille” gives off serious hardcore punk energy. “À Tombeaux Ouverts” and “Dieux Gémissants” both put the electronics front and center and open up the album to breathe a little bit with slower pacing and spoken word sections. For all the noise and weight, there is a surprising amount of subtlety in these songs if you take the time to look for it.
While Pudeur has been out on digital platforms for a while, it’s getting a physical release this week, and this is definitely one you want to pick up in a high-quality format. With so much going on in each song, the best way to immerse yourself in a record this dense is to be able to kick back, turn the volume up real high and listen to the whole thing at once. There’s a lot to unpack here, but it’s worth the effort you put in.