Heavy Metal, French Style: a Playlist in Honor of Bastille Day
In honor of French National Day, please put on your spiked black leather beret and hold high your goblet of blood-red Bordeaux wine in honor of the country's recent heavy metal victories. France has supplied a surprising slew of formidable bands in recent years, breaking open an metal arsenal of free-thinking bands that range from the ultra-extreme to the sublime.
Check out this killer playlist Noisecreep has put together in honor of Bastille Day!
"Death of Me," Gojira
First, let's deal with the 100-foot monster in the room, a mighty brigade of brothers from Bayonne called Gojira. All of a sudden, a French band is leading the way in crafting massive, inventive metal on a commercial par with anything by U.S. frontrunners Lamb of God. Gojira arrived in the early 2000s ready to roar, a fusion of Metallica's stadium poise, Morbid Angel's shapeshifting power, and Sepultura's vintage charisma and groove.
Without delving too deeply into the past vintages of French metal (a cellar highlighted by hard rockers Trust, Motörhead worshippers Vulcain, early ragers H-Bomb, thrashers Massacra, and industrial deviants Treponem Pal), this early heavy metal gem by Sortilège deserves a mighty oui. Not only was Sortilège one of Chuck Schuldiner's favorite bands, but the song's opening riff is pretty plainly the inspiration for Death's "Evil Dead."
"Control and Abuse," Antaeus
"Unfortunately on hold just as the world might be able to handle them, this Parisian squad delivered ingenious waves of unrelenting hate and nihilism. I know, I know, a lot of dead-end black metal losers promise that kind of void, but Antaeus were impressively intense and black-hearted to a mesmerizing degree."
"Behind the Husk of Faith," Arkhon Infaustus
Also sadly disbanded, Arkhon Infaustus combine the suffocating atmosphere of Antaeus with the churning uneasiness similar to where Gojira excels. This is supreme death metal, completely over the top and well-rounded. The band is not for the timid in any shape or form.
"Bread of Bitterness," Deathspell Omega
If the descriptions of the last couple bands seem to push the limits of hyperbole, well, that excess suits the music perfectly. So where to go next? Since emerging with its debut album in 2000, Deathspell Omega has pushed extreme metal into a dark new dimension altogether, orchestrating meticulous epic suites of avant garde expression that have been absorbed by rabid fans like self-contained philosophies discovered in ancient dusty leather-bound books. See for yourself.
"Printemps Emeraude," Alcest
Once poised on the cliff's edge of black metal, Alcest has cracked open a code of more beautiful hazy ethereal sounds. The band would hardly now be mistaken as metal at all if not for its lineage. Turns out, an entire generation of black metal fans has burnt the torches of anger too brightly and is now ready to follow something different.
"The Elves," Himinbjørg
Wrapping up this mini metal trek, Himinbjørg is France's entry in the viking metal genre. "French viking metal?" you ask. Yes indeed, the Normans of Normandy were descendants of Norse conquerers, and thus there's nothing odd at all about this kick ass band, and nothing to stop you from waving a flagon of French beer and screaming...
Viva La France!
Ian Christe is the author of Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, and the publisher of Bazillion Points Books, home to Swedish Death Metal, Only Death Is Real, Hellbent for Cooking, and other heavy reading.