Review: Houle – Ciel Cendre et Misère Noire

Band: Houle
Album: Ciel Cendre et Misère Noire (Ashen Skies and Black Misery)
Genre: Marine Black Metal
Country: France
Label: Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions
Released: June 7th 2024

Introduction

The ocean, it has fascinated us humans for centuries, well, millennia even. The vast reach and depth of the seas has some mystical power that appeals in an universal way to most of us humans, it’s like a spellbinding force that wants to pull you down into its depths, and it will spit you out when it’s done with you. This fascination with the ocean and it’s mystique is interpreted by French black metal band Houle and their debut album Ciel Cendre et Misère Noire in a most captivating way.

Houle

Houle creates, as self-described; Marine Black Metal. Personally I’m not very fond of all the sub-genre labeling within our scene, but that’s probably just my age-induced grumpiness talking. But the label they use does fit the aesthetics of the album and way the band presents themselves very well.

The band images are remarkable, and I absolutely loved them from the moment I saw them. As you can see, the images have a marine vibe to them, with the band standing on a ship wreck. But did the album fair better navigating the cliffs and rocks better than that ship? It’s time to set the course and let the light house guide us through these tracks…

Ciel Cendre et Misère Noire (Ashen Skies and Black Misery)

It’s the first album by Houle, and what does that get you? The album contains 8 tracks, with the 6th track being an instrumental, making the total runtime close to 45 minutes.

  1. Introduction
  2. La danse du rocher (The dance of the rock)
  3. Mère nocturne (Night mother)
  4. Sur les braises du foyer (On the embers of the hearth)
  5. Derrière l’horizon (Behind the horizon)
  6. Et puis le silence (And then the silence)
  7. Sel, sang et gerçures (Salt, blood and cracks)
  8. Née des Embruns (Born of the sea spray)


So, an ocean of stories to sing about, but what can you expect when you put this album on for the first time? The atmosphere—oceans full of it. The entire album just oozes of salt water and rust. As mentioned above, the bands choice of images help with this, but so does the cover artwork. It all gives off a vibe that I really like.

But the music is what counts the most, and on that front, they didn’t disappoint me. Everything, from the vocals and the drums to the riffs, is well put together and mixed properly (which isn’t always the case these days).

What really stood out to me were the vocals, done by Adsagsona. They are harsh when they need to be, but when used for the storytelling parts of some tracks, you can feel the agony in other parts. They just grab your attention. On the fourth track, Sur les braises du foyer, around the 3:30 mark, there is a scream that’s so chilling it will go through your entire core and being.

Née des Embruns (Born of the sea spray)

The last track of the album is the track I would recommend if you want to get a feel for what Houle is. The track builds up with an instrumental part, and starts to swell up and what’s that wave is big enough it hits you like a brick. The tempo varies, which makes the 12-minute it lasts fly by. The lyrics (of all the tracks) are very nice also, they are in French, so I had to translate them. But it’s all well written, and bonus points for including them. Below you’ll find a section for the track Née des Embruns.

From this troubled sea
Full of chimeras and doubts
The wind carries from port to port
The broken cries of the bitter lover
Of these waters
Forever the scourge
She rises, the harlot of the spray.
She rises, the harlot of the spray!

I could go on and on about it, but in a nutshell, the album has lots of depth to it and just drips atmosphere. If you are into Atmospheric black metal, this is a not-to-be-missed album.

Conclusion

Houle really surprised me with this album. Great vocals and drums, for example, but also the story telling of the album is very nice. I do hope the band releases translated lyrics on Bandcamp or ma for example, so that non-French speakers know what it is about (that goes for all bands though).

In short, this album will end up on my album of the year list, undoubtedly.

BMZ rating: 9 out of 10

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Support Houle here: https://houle.bandcamp.com/album/ciel-cendre-et-mis-re-noire

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