Written by Kep
Profond Barathre – Tinnitus
Ambient/Post Black Metal from Switzerland
Releases February 26th, 2021
Via Hummus Records
Every now and then you come across a description or promo for an album that’s new to you and once you’ve read it, you just *have* to listen. Something about that description pulls you in before you’ve even heard a note, and despite not truly having any idea what you’re in for, you just know on some level that it’s going to be right up your alley. In my experience, at least, that internal sense is rarely wrong, and the first listen is usually an extremely gratifying one.
That’s the experience I had with Tinnitus, the new record out this Friday, February 26, from Swiss ambient/post-black metallers Profond Barathre. The label writeup caught my eye in a couple places, but it was when I read this line that I was pretty sure I was hooked: “The album was self-recorded in a very minimalistic way: no voices, no synths, no additional guitars, and no samples. Just the three shadows of Profond Barathre playing their instruments in the dark….” The promise of an unblemished authenticity is one that I don’t take lightly; instrumental metal can be hit-or-miss, but something about the idea of a three-piece band just *making music* and nothing else felt like something I needed in my life. And my gut feeling was right: I can firmly say that Tinnitus delivers on that concept.
This record comprises five tracks and covers an expansive 57 minutes; only album opener “Stella” is less than ten minutes long, and it stands at a solid 8:24. These are lengthy songs, but listening to them isn’t a slog; rather, I find that the extremely unpretentious nature of the composition style lends itself to a rather comfortable, relaxing listening experience. The tracks are built on profound but simple riffs that tend to stick around for a long time before subtly and organically shifting to something related but new. For example, it’s over 3:40 into “Stella” before the first riff concept is left behind for the second, but that 3:40 never feels boring or stale. Instead, instrumentalists Joachim (guitar), Julien Floch (bass), and Morgan d’Argenteuil (drums) slowly build dynamically and gradually thicken the texture, with wonderful little variations fleshing and expanding the riff in a way that feels natural and unforced. By the time the rhythm section drops out to allow the guitar to lead the way into the next section of the song, the change feels earned and meaningful.
When an album is purely instrumental, mixing is particularly important, and I’m pleased to say that the production on Tinnitus doesn’t disappoint. All three instruments are treated with equal respect, and when one instrument plays an elegant fill or adds a new melodic line to the texture, those are always clear and have a great tone without suddenly dominating the overall sound. Take the ending portion of “Spiritus”: with a little over a minute and a half left, a countermelody suddenly appears, riding underneath the chords that make up the central idea of the riff. It’s subtle, and on my first listen I didn’t even notice it, but on the second listen the way that it rises into focus out of the body of the band’s sound was damn affecting. The opening of “Terra” is another triumph of mixing, and sees the guitar introducing a haunting riff before the bass and drums join. When they do, the bass is on absolute display, with a robust tone and its own counterriff that stands firmly out against the others while still feeling like an unmistakable part of the whole. Tinnitus is full of these little moments, and the sound is wonderfully cohesive while still allowing each instrument their moments to shine.
Perhaps was struck me the most in this record was the band’s overall vision and how successfully it was executed. There’s no question that this effort by Profond Barathre stands out in a crowd of black, ambient, and post-black metal albums for its minimalistic and unadulterated approach to songwriting. In the classical musical world, we often talk about the difference between programmatic and absolute music. Programmatic music tells a specific story or depicts a certain scene, while absolute music is written to simply be what it is: music. It’s rare to find something within metal that is meant to be absolute in that sense; usually there are lyrics, specific concepts, stories. What the listener gets in Tinnitus, though, is unmistakably absolute, and to me it feels extremely cathartic. How often do we metalheads get that in our genre of choice?
All in all, Profond Barathre offers something unique in today’s metal with Tinnitus. We live in a world that is, to put it bluntly, insane as shit. And lots of times what you need is to bang your head to something that heavy as hell and as angry as you are so that you can feel human again. But every now and then, if you’re like me, you might want something that helps you regain your humanity by washing your senses in pure, expressive release. For its 57 minutes, Tinnitus does that for me, and I’ll definitely be returning to it when I’ve got that craving in the future.
Favorite track: Terra