If it’s your first time with them I’ll tell you a few things in advance: You’d better be familiar with ARCTURUS’ La Masquerade Infernale, A FOREST OF STARS, IGORRR, SIGH, PESTE NOIRE (I hope your familiarity is only by hearsay), NAKED CITY, DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA, and avant-garde. If not, you’ll be making a disgusted face, and sending them to hell fast, as they are not easy to understand or assimilate. Their previous album Grand Guignol Orchestra was a turning point album defining their sound, and taking on an interesting and defining theme in his music. Therefore, the steps that followed were predictable because, let’s face it, trying to turn round such a proposal, it’s likely to be an unfeasible task.
From there, Leon Hardcore (the sick mind behind all this) has decided to go lower (in a good way) and finally have session musicians for instruments such as piano, trombone, accordion, and saxophone among many others. These instruments are a trademark of the band that help them set the circus aura on which the whole thing is built together with a mix of black metal and other musical genres from the 20th century such as jazz. With this, Hardcore finds a wider range of freedom to direct everything as he pleases and for accommodating the lower social classes, not only as free themselves, but they will also be acting as an audience, but also as guests of honor. For this and other reasons, this album is dirtier and filthier. The exaltation of violence, absurdity, and the most sordid nihilism spreads like contagious laughter or the black plague, mercilessly claiming the lives of the middle and upper classes. The poor lower class will have no better luck either. Being made up of addicts, prostitutes, and poor stray bullets abusing one substance or another, it will provoke their imminent suicide by combining their own excesses with those of the bourgeoisie, a grand finale that rises to the occasion.
All of it is divided into acts because clearly, this proposal needs logical development. That’s why Leon, apart from being the conductor throughout the album, plays the role of narrator surprising us again with his incredible variety of registers. He explores and emphasizes especially on the most depressive ones, providing an atmosphere that comes as a look back to their first albums. «Quel sale Bourreau» is the clearest example, very enveloping atmospheres that immerse you in those streets, and underground gangster clubs that every city has and are never visible to tourists, nor to ordinary people who live their quiet life routines. All the atmospheres are achieved with various instruments, and it doesn’t leave out its outlandish facet. He brings scum, urine, feces, and other fluids of disgusting origin that permeate places, to life. He tells how they got there with anecdotes that would make the most shameless and vile character blush. In the end, it is all about a cycle of purification, which destroys and recreates everything as it pleases, with a destructive frenzy imbued with a strong sense of patriotism to beautiful France. This gives rise to a romanticism that, while toxic, is also more ardent than real, genuine love.
In the end, it all leads to emotional gluttony and this, in turn, always leads to brain death. The album keeps on bringing up this matter note after note, and it is in «PN Mais Costaud!» where PENSÉES NOCTURNES celebrates this fact in style! It is simply spectacular how they have been able to picture society, its various social classes, the musical culture and the period they represent, and their classical music influences. He is able to sneak in several sections of classical compositions, giving them his own touch, and making them fit and sound so cool. A genius making reference to other geniuses. As long as the music plays, human’s baser instincts come alive, they whip themselves, get drunk, and howl their miseries at the moon when they are not busy hating themselves for being what they are. What makes it all beautiful is when lucidity comes and the truth reveals to them that they are doing the right thing. Bukowski would be proud, and would have shed tears of emotion when hearing this.
One could have easily been afraid that this formula achieved on previous albums, would be repeated on the new one, and wouldn’t entirely measure up. But, after this release, there is not really much we need to worry about. The band will still exploit their sound, even if they get to miss their initial «wow factor», they can still exploit their sound. It is very unlikely that you will be hearing anything similar, and as crazy, along the year. And if you do, it’s even more unlikely that it will have the same protrude result as PENSÉES NOCTURNES have achieved here.
Translated by Irene López