Sordide came to be ‘Ni nom, ni drapeau’ (‘without names or flags’), but I could not imagine this band coming from anywhere other than France. It’s not necessarily because their album’s title singles the country out for being particularly spooked either. This is the kind of raw, treble-based, malevolent feculence that you would scrape off of the cobblestone of some run-down alley in Paris. It’s raw black metal that occasionally dares to surprise through its deceptive elegance. It’s the sort of rambunctious black metal hooliganism that made Peste Noire so loved and detested in equal measure. I’m not surprised that La France a Peur has sparked similar division in the months since its release.
For emphasis’ sake, I will state this once more: For a band that claims to be without flags, Sordide wear their nationhood on their sleeves. Similar to my listening experience with Peste Noire, Sordide’s rowdy presentation gives off a conflicting impression; while these guys demonstrate the muted desire to liaison with an unlikely musicality, they blanket their sophistication in a rough-edged execution that could run the risk of being dismissed as intentionally bad musicianship by unwitting ears. My impression of the song ‘Ni Nom Ni Drapeau’ is centred around this point. There are riffs played here where it sounds like the twangy, over-trebled guitar rushed through it in one take, leaving misstrummed notes and all. Listening to the album a bit closer on the second time around, I realized the offending riff made this same strumming ‘mistake’ every second time around. These affronts towards traditional musicality are by no means ‘mistakes’ in and of themselves; add to that a particularly violent vocal performance, and it truly appears that Sordide are going out of their way to offend their listeners’ ears. The album sounds as if it might have been recorded off the floor. Their presentation lacks nothing for raw ugliness, but I could never presume to imagine that there isn’t intelligence working behind it. Sordide have been secretive with their sophistication, but it is there for those who want to look for it.
Simultaneously, I actually think there is a fair amount of beauty to be gleaned from La France a Peur, provided your conception of such isn’t limited to consonance and euphony. There are memorable black metal riffs here, with beauty trying desperately to claw out of their rough design. “Ni Nom Ni Drapeau” is definitely the strongest contender here with regards to songwriting, but Sordide have offered an otherwise solid set of material. The title track gives due emphasis to the band’s lead vocalist, who manages to make the French language sound as ugly and unwelcoming as bird droppings on a moldy rug. ‘Violence’ is also pretty striking on its own—a weirdly hypnotic trip that bears a resemblance in its vocal pattern to horror-proggers Goblin‘s main Suspiria theme.
La France a Peur is raw and candidly offensive. No doubt this is precisely what Sordide set out to do when they imagined the album into being. Where the current zeitgeist in black metal seems to value relative seriousness and proper artistry more than ever before, a band that goes out of their way to sound improper is actually somewhat refreshing.
01) Ni Nom Ni Drapeau
05) La France a Peur
06) Pauvre Histoire