Album Review: Ergholae Somptator – “Mille vertiges fondent sur les ames vides” (Black Metal)

Written by Kep

Ergholae Somptator – Mille vertiges fondent sur les âmes vides

Black metal from France

Releasing November 26, 2021

You know that saying “variety is the spice of life”? It’s a reliably intelligent way to approach things, especially music. Just like spiceless food, a band without at least a little variety in their sound tends to be bland and boring. There’s a caveat, though: take it too far and you’ve got the opposite problem, where the senses are overloaded and nothing makes sense because there’s just too much of everything. The line where that happens is different for every person, and some can handle way more “spice” than the average—that’s why Between the Buried and Me, for example, have fans—but as a rule, a healthily varied tracklist is better than one where ever song is very similar. 

Ergholae Somptator understand this concept better than most. The French duo, comprised of Honoratus(guitars/vox) and Jérônymous (drums/vox), works with a base recipe of raw, aggressive black metal, and they’re plenty good at it. Their sound is angrily distorted and generally furious, with vicious guitars and scathing drumwork accompanying crackling vocals that are more throaty than shrieking. But you’ll find much more than just that to enjoy in their second full-length Mille vertiges fondent sur les âmes vides, a heaping helping that’s spiced up by a profusion of riff styles and a huge array of songwriting designs. The band throws a ton of stuff at the listener, and the vast majority works impressively. 

Now my French isn’t the world’s greatest, but I can tell you that “Mille vertiges fondent sur les âmes vides” roughly translates to “a thousand vertigos melt on empty souls”. If that as an album title doesn’t scream THIS IS AVANT-GARDE I don’t know what does, and you’ll find plenty of suitably off-the-wall dissonance and uncommon structures to back that up right from the jump, even in the more “standard” black metal tracks. Opener “La mort bientôt jouit”, for example, starts firing on all cylinders without even a millisecond of warmup—probably a misstep, actually, because it’s so instant that it feels like they accidentally clipped off the beginning of the song—and doesn’t stop assaulting the listener with blistering tremolos and shrieks for its five-minute runtime. But as intense as that is, things get more and more intriguing from there: “Les infectes salives” breaks out a downright sinister riff to start and then makes a hard left into a mid-tempo chug and later a sustained passage of disorienting punches, while “Mille vertiges” embraces angularity with a stunning series of mostly tremolo-picked riffs that range from pummeling to wicked. Keep expecting the unexpected though: I dare you not to smile when they throw in a rollicking Gothenburg melodeath riff near that track’s midpoint. 

This is the way that Ergholae Somptator keep pulling you in. The 9 tracks and 42 minutes of Mille vertiges fondent sur les âmes vides stick close enough to the realm of spiteful, viciously overdriven black metal that the abrupt shifts and dips into other sonic worlds are fascinating moments of variety rather than incomprehensible lane-swerving. The strangest track on the record, “La difformité des étoiles sombres”, is convoluted and enigmatic, with meter- and tempo-shifting dissoriffs that lumber, cascade, and twist while Jérônymous and Honoratus alternately growl and tunelessly wail above. But that descent into utter madness is sandwiched between “Deviens” and “Tique mon amour”, two of the more straightforward (relatively speaking) offerings. Every now and then an excursion into the otherworlds doesn’t quite fit satisfyingly, like the extremely punk elements that are stitched into “Carbone” (for my money the weakest track here), but the band always makes up for it with something excellent, like the entirety of instrumental closer “Hantise”, a multi-faceted track that leaves a great taste in the mouth. 

Olivier Molina’s production is solid and fits the aggressive nature of Ergholae Somptator’s oeuvre pretty darn well. The master is a bit on the loud side, for sure, but my gut tells me that was likely intentional, and the mixing is designed with primary respect to the vocals, which ride slightly above the guitars when both are present, for better or worse. It’s nice to hear a band that wears its second wave influences on its sleeve commit to doing so more through songwriting elements than production, as well: not only is session bassist M.C. Mouss’ instrument audible, it firmly grounds the overall sound and feels important. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

In a sea of black metal bands, Ergholae Somptator is a name worth noticing and remembering. Their eclectic and avant-garde tendencies are folded into a base of rock solid black metal that would be fine on its own, but is definitively special with such a variety of colors and flavors. It’s not a perfect record, but Mille vertiges fondent sur les âmes vides is an impressive one that delivers on its lofty ambitions far more often than not.

Favorite track: “Les infectes salives”

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