Forteresse is an Ambient Black Metal act that originates from Montreal, Quebec. Formed back in 2006, the band has issued two full-lengths and a split prior to this, their third full-length outing entitled Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plained. The group also issued a split release with Brume d’Automne roughly eight months prior to this release. However, unlike previous outings, each album had songs with different names, unlike Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plained, which has every track labeled as the title of the album. To make things easier for this review, each track will be named by the corresponding track number on the release. Of course, this shouldn’t come as a shock, especially when hearing the effort to discover this is yet another low quality/raw Black Metal release that actually has more then just one member in the band.
While the ambience to this album is nice, there is no denying that it does wind up hurting the album somewhat. The atmosphere and compositions are about what you would expect for a raw Ambient Black Metal release, finding this album is focused more on the haunting keyboards that are rather simple, doing their job to air the atmosphere of the album, but due to how simple they can be, they often don’t contribute much. The keyboards will often drown some of the instruments out, making it hard sometimes to tell the difference between th guitars that are playing the same thing as the keyboards, except maybe with more chords put in of the same note. The drumming, however, does stand out. Of course, it flows along the pace of the keyboards and guitats, which shows a great deal of restraint as the longer material here can become rather boring. On the first listen, it’s easy to sit there waiting for the music to pick up pace, or step out from the background of the recording, or even just have the volume podded up to a better audible level. Granted, the lower volume does help the recording out somewhat, it just causes the music to become a bit jumbled and gets lost in itself, as well as loses some of it’s bite.
The vocals on Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines are also what you would expect from this kind of recording. Much like the music, the vocals feel further back in the recording, being just a little louder then the music itself. Of courswe, it’w the traditional rough/rhaspy wailing style common to the Black Metal genre, and for the music that is being played, it works out very nice to create a very haunting, and something menacing ghoulish voice to the mix. The only problem is that they barely ever show through the recording. They do appear on various tracks, such as “Track 1”, “Track 3”, and “Track 4”, but typically only for a brief few lines before allowing the music to continue on.
Each track manages to merge into one another on this release, typically by using a short track between the actual music that is nothing more than wind to symbolize the harsh wintery setting of the album. While transitions like these sometimes don’t quite work, they do a nice job in keeping the tracks together as if it were one song. “Track 3” and “Track 4”, for example, share the same kind of musical feel, and seems to carry on the musical concept from “Track 1”. However, “Track 7” seems to act more like it’s own entity and seems to have a much different music style then the rest, though still moving at the same slow pace. This track also winds up losing some of the dark atmosphere to it that worked so well with the wind transitions in “Track 2” and “Track 6”, however, as with the end of “Track 1”, the guitars do seem to go on their own set path and not just play something mirroring or mimicking the keyboards.
Par Hauts Bois et Vastes Plaines is a decent piece of Ambient Black Metal, but the music itself isn’t all that great and comes up rather simple. While the atmosphere is there for many of the tracks, creating the perfect portrait to go along with the blistering wintery atmospheric backdrop, it just doesn’t really have any bite to it that will keep the listener attentive, coming off rather boring due to it’s very simplistic compositions. What the band did get right, however, is the approach they made with the vocal performance, though having it as limited as it is here was also a huge downfall since it added so nicely to the atmosphere of the release, as well as utilizing the wind sound effects as transitions between songs, linking them together nicely without violating the overall atmosphere. While “Track 7” felt a little out of place, and a good majority of the music was good, but nothing too special, Forteresse manage to create a subpar album that doesn’t quite deliver on the ambience in the manner that this brand of Black Metal so desperately needs.