What do you get with you combine the grainy, filthy atmosphere of Quebec black metal with the nostalgic sounds of dungeon synth? One of two things, either you get random nonsense with someone slamming their head on a keyboard for half an hour while forgetting how to produce anything or you get Caverne. If you have been lucky enough to hear something by the latter, then you will likely be saying to yourself “It’s about time!” I love Caverne, I have since I found them in February thanks to an awesome friend. Caverne was the first time I really heard dungeon synth played in the ultra lo fi production zone and to this day he is one of the artists that know how to use the feedback and the fuzz to create an atmosphere rather than just distracting noise. Tour Noir recently hit greatest and worst music site Bandcamp and from the moment I saw it, I know I had to have it.
Tour Noir, French for Black Tower, holds Caverne true to form. He both uses Tolkien as an influence and he doesn’t. He doesn’t use Tolkien and Middle-Earth the same way many dungeon synth artists do (not that there is anything wrong with the way they do it). He expresses his Tolkien influence more through the use of themes and motifs rather than straight up stories pulled from the books. I like that. The music that he writes then has a chance to form on its own and build its own sort of mythology. Like I said earlier, he combines the dark, grim, evil atmosphere that the Quebec black metal scene has become so synonymous with the likes of Mort aux Gueux, Janvier, and Ifernach with dungeon synth in a unique but familiar way.
There has been a wave of lo fi music hitting the dungeon synth scene lately and while not all of it is good or noteworthy, there are still gems to be found. Caverne is one of those gems. Tour Noir is the second album that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing. He has built on his success and skills since his last album. His sound has matured and he’s burned out the chaff that was holding back his last album, Dans les cendres du Mordor from being all it could have been. I enjoyed that album thoroughly but the static that was on the album was distracting at times. With Tour Noir there is very little static to distract. I’m really happy for that. To me, that says he really went through the music and listened to it to make sure it was perfect before he released it.
Dans les cendres du Mordor was borderline black ambient music much in the vein of Werwolfsblut with lots of screaming and screeching taking place in the background. Tour Noir continues that but the voices behind the music feel more focused, sharper. Dans les cendres du Mordor was not a bad album but a long shot, I still enjoy it to this day but Tour Noir is a superior product. This is the kind of music I wanted to hear from Caverne before I listened to Tour Noir. My expectations have been met. That sort of thing always makes me happy. Caverne still toes the line between dungeon synth and straight up black ambient but the pathway he uses is much clearer. There’s less noise and more atmosphere. Instead of pumping in static and fuzz to build the atmosphere, Caverne uses a vast array of instrumentations and vocals.
The music comes alive with Caverne; in the same way that the music of Quebec black metal reflects the cold and unforgiving landscape, his music reflects the darker aspects of fantasy: grimdark, without turning it into something silly. We all love tails about evil wizards and tyrants ready to crush the last hope of humanity but capturing that in music is harder than we expect. Fantasy atmosphere is one thing, but grimdark atmosphere is another. It’s hard to make it sound serious, make it sound legitimate. I’ve heard several attempts, I’ve even read some grimdark fiction that tries to create the atmosphere and there have been a lot of flops and forgettable sounds. Not so with Caverne. Tour Noir is a triumph, definitely one of the best dungeon synth albums to come out thus far this year.
Caverne has the unique stance, too, that it can be considered dungeon synth and it can be considered part of the Quebec black metal scene. Whichever you choose to put Caverne in, it will thrive. Tour Noir is really a much improved and sharper version of Caverne than I had seen before. I don’t want Caverne to be become too clean though, I love the space he is occupying now. It’s harsh and raw but the musicianship shines through. Keep it up Caverne!
Highlights: J’ai tué le Roi du Rastradûm, J’implore le firmament du haut de ma tour noir
For Fans of: Werwolfsblut, Ifernach, Secluded Alchemist
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- J’ai tué le Roi du Rastradûm
- Caverne-L’empire du Rustradûm…perdu à jamais
- Caverne-J’implore le firmament du haut de ma tour noir
Released independently on Bandcamp April 17th, 2017