The French metal scene is a modest but rapidly growing one, and instrumental prog/post-metal outfit Fall of Messiah may have just proved themselves the most thematically ambitious of them all with their latest full-length release. Senicarne is a taut, psychedelic exploration of universal entropy and mankind’s tenuous grip on – and progression beyond – the natural world that sees the band evolve into true heavyweights of the post-metal genre.
In the attempt to realise these grandiose ideals, Senicarne comes across as far less aggressive and more immediately accessible than How to Build a Bridge Between Circles; the former’s coiling, organic rhythms and delicate delay-soaked guitars contrasting starkly with the latter’s jagged stop-start time signatures and abrasively unfiltered screamed vocals.
The album opens with Republique du Vide (Republic of the Void): a rolling barrage of drums that quickly blossoms into a shimmering, thunderous soundscape that spends the next few minutes flexing and writhing between quiet and chaos, guided and underscored by cascading, intertwining guitar riffs that whisper and echo. It works as a mission statement for the rest of the album, propelling the listener through a cycle of rising crescendos and turbulent plunges, all the while pushing the human element (self-conscious widdling, schizophrenic time signatures, post-hardcore vocals etc) to the fringes, for maximum impact.
Like many post-rock/metal bands, and atmospheric music in general, the individual tracks on the album don’t stand apart from one another as distinctly as one might like, but rather work best when considered as part of a greater whole. Occasionally, on songs such as Atlantique and Contreforts (Foothills) the band up the tempo and revisit their math-rock roots (sounding at times like a blissed-out Underøath), but the tone here is overwhelmingly more meditative than frantic.
Moments of aggression are almost always building towards some expansive, redemptive climax that rinses and dissolves the storm of tension away. For the most part, the tracks ebb and flow into one another: each song takes the sonic template of the one before it, and runs with it into new territories, like the baton passed forward in a relay race. As variations on a similar auditory theme, they work, but they truly shine when allowed the time to call and respond to one another.
Historically, our attitude towards nature is driven by our desire to conquer it: our natural inclination towards symmetry and order is prioritised over all else. This is an album that rejects such sterility; a formidable yet contemplative celebration of primal emotion, growth and dissolution that reveals hidden details with every listen. Crucially, while Senicarne scythes through an eclectic array of shapes and forms, it does so without ever sacrificing its own distinct brand of cacophonous grandeur. Zut alors!