For those that have been paying attention over the last year since I’ve started writing for this putrid website (Hi Mom), I’m a sucker for emotional complexity in music. The days of mindlessly head-banging in the shower to whatever offering of Grind or Death Metal that I happened upon during my late night hours of delving into the internet are long behind me. I’m old now. I work a full-time job and enjoy a cheap happy hour every so often. I’ve settled down, and sadly, I don’t have the time to really explore what the underground has to offer as much as I would like. Well, thanks to this site and more importantly, French label Les Acteurs De L’Ombre Productions, that constant, gnawing hunger deep within me has been sated of for the time being in form of Exile, a fantastically sadistic release by Regarde Les Hommes Tomber. I’ve had this album for a while now; in fact a few months ago CVLT Nation, alongside Les Acteurs De L’Ombre, organized a little give away for a boxed set of this beast. And while I jammed it a number of times during that interval and loved it, I was forced to shelve it in order to play catch up with other albums and life. But the other day, when it came time for me to do the official review for this incredibly impious and immoral slab of hate, I found myself even more captivated and enthralled with this band’s devilishly frightful sound and approach.
If you’re addicted to moments of discordant riffs, occasional groove-orientated brutality and blasts of sonic malice, this one has your name all over it. While R.L.H.T. have a foot in the grave of Post-Black Metal, they manage to straddle that sound and yet conjure up and expand upon what’s being done in this genre. As evident on the opening instrumental track, “Exile,” which sets the tone for what’s about to be unleashed upon this earth. One cannot help but imagine a nuclear-war ravaged landscape, the sun blotted out and the choking atmosphere of soot and ash coating those unlucky enough to survive. Which plays even more heavily into this feeling of dread and misery as the album explodes into the first proper track, “A Sheep Among The Wolves.” With the subtlety of a baseball bat being smashed against your face, Regard Les Hommes Tomber screech out across the night sky in a wave of aural decimation. The title of the track suites their assault perfectly, as one gets the sense that the band are the starving wolves, and we the listeners are the timid sheep being hunted down. With some massive, massive Gojira-styled guitar riffs strewn about the song that are without a doubt humbling for metal-worn ear drums to hear, “A Sheep…” sets the stage for what is to follow on this trip into the abyss. And as you’ll soon find out, this trip is indeed worth the pound of flesh you’ll have to pay in order to endure and receive it’s message.
When it comes to the actual tone and texture of the album, this thing sizzles like a hand dipped into a deep fryer. The cracks and pops of the drums, in addition to the low, earthly rumblings of the bass, are layered perfectly, with a tone that is ridiculously heavy, but not overbearing to the point that it rips apart the other instruments. Guitar wise, both players in this project add such an amazing, almost nightmarish effect through out specific parts – in particular, the lullaby to a doomed world that is the fifth track, “…To Take Us.” The second guitar dwells in the darkness like a obsessed stalker, exuding creepy notes underneath the noise-filled, Black Metal-styled main guitar. With each repeated rotation of this album, every moment that featured heavily on both guitars clawed their way up my back and into my skull, creating a sense of the walls closing in and extreme paranoia; matched in turn with my willingness to succumb and accept my fate thanks to this record. Both guitar players seem incredibly comfortable bouncing off each other which results in a the band swaying between the aforementioned post-Black Metal attack to even facets of Sludge-filled Doom. Being able to wrap these two sounds together is the next big thing it seems, so if you’re keen on that idea, I can guarantee that this record will get your motor purring.
But what of the vocals, you ask? While the first and fourth song are both instrumental, there have to be vocals right? Well, rest assured, their vocalist – simply credited as Thomas – is a fucking rage-infected demon. With vocal chords crafted in the deepest bowels of hell itself, Thomas screeches and growls in such a timely and well used manner that he should now be included in a manual for aspiring metal vocalists. In no way am I kidding about this guy. His snarl has such venom and disdain for humanity contained within it that it’s hard not to imagine him gleefully watching all of organized religion tearing at each others’ throats. Even from a lyrical standpoint, the band proclaims a vast abhorrence for religion as a whole, with Christianity being it’s main target. Take from the final song “The Incandescent March,” the band leaves little to the imagination of what they have in store for all of the hypocritical churches around the globe: “The primitive philosophy of a tyrannic group of cowards/Will never rule on this pure and fragile place we call earth…And on this unreachable fortress we call Heaven/He will taste the anger of the gods we are/We will sit on this throne.” It’s hard to shrug your shoulders while reading that. Neither blatantly Satanic or outright Crust-Punk, the sense of flow in the vocal and lyrical structure – even if English might not be their first language – is well thought out and clear as to what their message is.
As the album closes out, Exile is fascinatingly complex journey into extreme metal. Part Black Metal, part Doom mixed together with the necessary elements of absolute face-fucking. Each song plays off each other in such a professional, storyteller like way that it’s hard to deny that the entire album is intertwined and created by some dark pact with whatever sleeps beyond the darkness of humanity’s vision. Aided by the production value and attention to detail in terms of song-writing and picking key moments to lay waste to your speakers. Regard Les Hommes Tomber have stepped out of the shadows and the underground buzz they have generated with previous releases and have truly emerged as a new voice to be heard in this often over-cramped and copied metal scene. Subsequently, this whole album reveals a fully fleshed out and monolithic vision from this French band. It breaks my heart that I’ll have to shelf this release yet again in order to play catch up on other reviews. But then again, when I do scroll past it on my phone and decide that it’s time to bear witness yet again to their prophecies, it’ll make it that much more enjoyable to engage in this malevolent album once again. I would urge all of you to drop what you’re doing right now and get on board with this band. I have a feeling this isn’t going to be the last time we’ll be hearing from these French demons.