Written by Kirk
L’Homme Absurde – Stranger
> Post-black metal
> Released May 9
> SoundAge Productions
Do you know what it is I probably like most about depressive suicidal black metal? For the most part, there are fewer Nazis. Now, you may be wondering, why is that? You see, Nazis are dumb. Like…really dumb; it’s the result of all that “genetic purity” (i.e. inbreeding) they love so much. They’ve been scraping the bottom of barrel for years, so the chances they’re going to have the mental wherewithal to actually feel emotions like sadness or depression are slim to none…and slim is packing his bags and about to move across town.
Sure, sure, there are exceptions to every rule, but DSBM is by and large a safer subsection of black metal for those of you who don’t like supporting or platforming Nazis. But enough Nazi-bashing (for now, at least. I have an album to talk about), let’s discuss this new L’Homme Absurde album. Don’t let the name confuse you, they’re not French, though the name does translate to “the absurd man,” which remains a subtle nod to the band’s origins as a solo project. Founded in 2015 by Alexey Slavin, L’Homme Absurde has been at the forefront of the Russian post-black metal scene with their mix of post-rock, depressive post-black metal, and blackgaze. And, like fellow post-black metal/blackgaze luminaries like Alcest and Deafheaven, the L’Homme Absurde sound is far more than the sum of its parts.
In spite of a somewhat tumultuous lineup since recording their debut self-titled EP in 2016, Alexey & co. have stayed true to their blackgaze roots while experimenting heavily with the ever mercurial nature of post-rock and post-metal. Bassist Pavel Gorshkov joined in 2019, and guitarist Alexandr Safronovand drummer Kirill Afanasiev both joined in 2020. So, needless to say, the members have had time to gel before they entered the studio to start recording Strangers, their fourth full-length album in less than ten years.
And gel they have indeed; the album opens with “Cold Light”, an absolute barnburner of a song. The way the drums open, it sounds like someone slowed the intro to “Hot for Teacher” to about half speed before Pavel’s nasty, dirty, grungy bass kicks in as Alexandr plays sharp, stinging riffs over top his groove. If anything, this ain’t your granddaddy’s black metal! We then shift into overdrive as the style shifts into blackgaze as Alexey’s agonized bark competes with Kirill’s blast beats for who can be louder in the mix. As opening tracks go, I challenge you to find one that goes as hard if not harder than this.
The entire vibe of the album shifts as “Catatonic” opens, heralding in a pretty straightforward DSBM song. There are elements of post-rock scattered throughout this track, but the transition from the banger that is “Cold Light” is a little jarring. We take a step out of black metal and a step (or two) towards post-rock for “Soil”, though both feet are still firmly planted in blackgaze. The distortion on Alexandr’s guitar is through the roof, and it sounds like Alexey is singing in some kind of culvert while Pavel holds everything together with his murky bass tones. This song is slow, heavy, and sinister as hell. But things pick up as “Decisions” gets going, Kirill kicking the tempo up a notch for another song that leans heavily into post-rock territory. Which is good, because I feel like post-rock and DSBM both play into that energetic-but-somber vibe, and both styles play very well here.
Once again rolling blackgaze and post-rock into a nice little package is “Illusions of Dawn”, perhaps the perfect balance between the heaviness of “Soil” and the tempo of “Decisions”. Again, Pavel’s bass serves as the heartbeat of this song while Alexandr’s guitar riffs buzz and stab like some kind of weaponized radio static. But things get real again once “Solution” gets going, a return to the frenetic energy of “Cold Light”. Kirill’s blast beats take over as the driving rhythm of this song, his hands and feet pounding away on his kit as though he’s trying to destroy it beat by thunderous beat. There’s something delightfully chaotic about this song, like the band just needed a chance to flex their muscles and shred. And then things begin to slow down about halfway through the song, shifting into an almost doom-like tempo.
And then we enter the title track, a hefty slab of blackened post-doom if I’ve ever heard one. And while this song leans very, very deeply into all the sadness of doom and DSBM, it is also a deeply enjoyable track and one of my favorites from this record. In it, we get to see L’Homme Absurde’s experimental side as well, Alexandr and Pavel playing around with what sounds they can make with their respective instruments. Or I’m just being biased because I love doom metal, which is entirely possible. Either way, as strong of an opener that “Cold Light” is as “Stranger” is an equally powerful closer.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is not an album you put on in passing so you can have background noise while doing something mundane like washing the dishes or doing your taxes. If you’re going to play the record, at least have the courtesy to pay attention to and enjoy it. And chances are it’s too dense for you to appreciate it fully on one listen. L’Homme Absurde have an incredibly full and nuanced sound, and there’s a lot that goes on in this record that chances are you’ll miss something if you’re not paying close enough attention. But I promise you, each consecutive play with peel back yet another layer until all of its delicious secrets have been revealed. It’s worth the wait.