In several serious conversations I’ve had with friends about the purposes of metal, I’ve come to an inescapable conclusion: metal did not set out to spread different opinions, cultures, or ideas, but it has now. Metal, likely, started out as a pure expression of self and individuality, yet the more and more individuality there was within the scene, the more people learned new ideas, histories, etc. Black metal now has become a sort of teacher for me. To be fair it’s not just black metal and it’s not just now (I hold that I learned more in high school from researching things I saw or heard in metal than from actual classes but that’s neither here nor there). Metal has become a sort of teacher for things you can’t learn anywhere else. Case in point, Ifernach. A Quebecois black metal band (I sadly only recently learned how to actually pronounce that) and their latest effort, “Maqtewek Nakuset.”
I’ve been sitting on this review for a while, actually, at the behest of a good friend of mine but I was given permission finally so I’m likely to unleash a torrent of praise and way too deep analysis here that’s been simmering in my head for at least two months now. I’ll try to hold back from gushing too much but I make no promises.
Let’s talk about the album’s aesthetics first. The cover, the name, etc. The cover is stark but it’s very poignant when you think about it. The silhouetted ax against the red sky (it might not be red, I’m colorblind so forgive that possible oversight) speaks a lot to what the album is about and the nature of the music. It’s not a beautiful piece of artwork that one might find on an atmospheric black metal cover or a doom metal cover; it’s raw. I think a lot of thought went into it but very little work. It has a certain effect, I think, it prepares the listener for what’s about to come. I was pulled in by the artwork, it’s honest and blunt, it’s not a frilly album cover. That’s exactly the kind of music I’ve come to expect from my friends in Quebec, they know how to make a harsh kind of metal that can’t be found anywhere else on earth. That leads me to the album title itself. I had no idea, before I started my research, what it meant. Even after my research I may know the linguistic meaning but the objective meaning is still up in the air. Nakuset is the name of a sun god in one of the northern indigenous tribes of Canada, the Mi’kmaq tribe. I can honestly say that before I listened to this album and began to research things I found in it, I had never heard of this tribe. Now I still know next to nothing but I feel as though I have been enlightened by the album.
And the album. True to form, Maqtewek Nakuset is bleak and nasty, harsh and raw. I cannot overstate how nasty it really is. Ifernach is not your typical black metal band, it’s full of ambient, acoustic and thrash elements that on the face of it, shouldn’t work. It sounds too fucking chaotic to work and maybe if it were anyone else doing it, it wouldn’t work. But Ifernach pulls it off. It’s not a pretty album, like Some Happy Thoughts, Délétère, and Mort aux Gueux, Ifernach blends the harsh environment with the emotions of the creator to produce a form of music that you will not find anywhere else. Ifernach, though, takes it a few steps further. The sounds of Ifernach is further isolated and insulated from the rest of the world. The sounds and emotions come from some place deeper in the psyche of the band, from Chandler, Quebec which, looking at it geographically looks rather isolated. This is the sort of sound that real isolation creates.
Ifernach, though, aren’t making metal for metal’s sake. There is a real point to their music, another Quebecois trait in music that I’ve come across. When you look at Some Happy Thoughts, their music is built around the dichotomy of sadness and happiness and the inevitability of each; Forteresse uses their music to further Quebec nationalism. So what is Ifernach’s hook? What makes them so unique? Taking a look at their bandcamp page makes everything clear, once you’ve listened to the music itself, “resurging ancient spirits to avenge the forgotten native souls.” I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but thinking about that the whole thing becomes clear. The acoustic sound (don’t confuse that with me saying the album is “unplugged”) is deeper, there’s an ancient feel to the music now. I listened to this album constantly, each time I felt like I was closer to putting words to the sounds and the emotions I was hearing but even now I find that words are failing me. And that’s a good thing. I love that there are still pieces of music in the world that leave me truly speechless. We all need something, I think, that is just beyond our limits so we have something to strive to understand.
I loved this album, seriously. It won’t everyone’s cup of tea because it’s not made with the intention of making people happy. Some metal is made for that and that’s fine but Ifernach is different, this album is different. What I love about the album is the lack of production, the music has a sharp edge to it, it’s not thick and bogged down with overproduction. The raw, thrashy feel is one that I’ve come to expect, I’ve gotten used to that from Quebecois black metal but Ifernach is still different. I have some many things I want to be able to say but somehow the words just don’t form in my head the way they ought to. I have tremendous respect for the ability to confound and delight me. Ifernach is not for everyone, as I said, but I believe that everyone should try it. You never know what you are going to find here.
Listen and support!