In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.
Ian and I had a ton of fun working together to write up the latest Misery Signals album, which you can and should read about here. So much fun, in fact, that since we both have albums that fall loosely (and I do mean loosely here) under categories like “blackened” and “folk” we decided to combine our powers again for a Second Circle. Today, we look at Magni‘s self-titled new release and Forêt Endormie‘s Une voile déchirée.
Magni is the brainchild of Clint Listing, born out of a jam session of his main gig Until The Sky Dies that seeks to piece together acoustic folk, goth sensibilities, black metal and Listing’s lifelong belief in Asatru. It’s an ambitious thing to attempt, but we’ve already seen folk and black metal come together in a pretty seamless way earlier this year. This, however, feels much more spread out than Nobody, with a lot of really diverse influences creeping in and collecting together. Gentle strummed acoustic guitars, light and airy string arrangements, uncomplicated drumming and Listing’s distinctive half-whisper, half-croon make up the brunt of the sounds that weave through the four tracks. While each one feels distinct, there’s a common element that ties them all together, but it’s not exactly what you might think. There’s an ease and gentleness to them that I did not expect, with a lot of major keys and a delicate balance of pretty melodies that don’t exactly scream “black metal” to me. Honestly, it feels more like a folk-influenced pop record than anything else, even though the songs have titles like “Pagan Vastlands” and “Ragnarok.”
And that brings me to what kind of let me down about Magni. I don’t hear what I was promised I would hear, even if I like what I’m listening to. There’s really no one particular spot I would even remotely think of black metal when I’m listening to any of these songs, save for the chorus of “Ragnarok” where Listing attempts a harsh-vocal/whisper hybrid, which honestly falls really flat for me. I think I would have enjoyed this listen a lot more if my perception of it hadn’t been colored with the expectation that I would find some black metal somewhere in here, but it’s just not there. It’s all upbeat guitar strums and melodic strings and keys from start to finish. Still, if you can let that go and think of this as more of a pagan themed folk record, the songs are pleasant, and there’s nothing besides what I mentioned that is off-putting. The goth influences are there too, and they help color things a little more darkly, but mostly this is an upbeat, poppy folk album about the Nordic religion, and I guess that’s fine at the end of the day. It just doesn’t feel like what I signed up for.
My introduction to Forêt Endormie came from a performance at last year’s Fire in the Mountains festival, where after a series of unfortunate events involving cancelled flights and bad weather, the group had found themselves switching run times and opening up the entire weekend. I had known of Forêt Endormie’s existence prior to that weekend, but was unfamiliar with exactly what I was about to receive. Their set ended up being one of my absolute favorites from a weekend packed full of astounding performances, and was an experience I hold pretty dear, so as soon as I knew we would be getting a promo for the band’s second release, Une voile déchirée, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
“Blackened” only by their association with Falls of Rauros via guitarist Jordan Guerette, Forêt Endormie are a modern chamber orchestra group that create idyllic, pastoral music that weaves together French romantic sensibilities and the atmospheres of the vast forestscapes their home state of Maine provides. The group’s music is an interesting mix of acoustic and electric tones, with bell-like clean guitar, electric keyboards, and harmonium interplaying with deep, resonant upright bass, lofty violin, and even clarinet. Une voile déchirée is a very sensual, textural experience, the feeling of the old world and new colliding in ways I have not heard before. The core of the music draws from centuries of classical tradition, but with a modern sheen given to them, the blend of acoustic and electric elements serves to highlight the push-pull dynamic between the modern world and the natural one, the songs on this album center around places and circumstances that would be dangerous to human beings yet the music is peaceful and tranquil, and the band even eschew the English language to sing in French, hearkening back to the era of French settlers in the Northeast of the US. You feel like you’re caught between time and worlds listening to Une voile, lost in the unfamiliar but at the same time completely at peace. It’s a striking and wholly unique approach to music, which is a statement that can be taken with a grain of salt as my knowledge of modern classical (and even older classical music) isn’t the most deep, but I do know that Une voile déchirée is an album that stirs something in the core of me, and it’s one I’m going to be coming back to a lot through the rest of this year.