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Celestia and Forteresse at Santos Party House, Friday, April 29th, 2011

The Alliance Française tour, featuring veteran French black metallers Celestia and Métal Noir Québécois newcomers Forteresse, paid a visit to Santos Party house on Friday, treating a crowd to a night of atmospheric and ethereal black metal. Put on by Stereogum’s Haunting the Chapel mastermind Brandon Stosuy and Chronic Youth, the performance was a welcome return for Celestia to New York and among the first ever performances for Forteresse—the six dates they played on the Alliance Française tour, this being the fifth, marked the first times the band had performed live.
And what a performance Forteresse put on at Santos. The band’s brand of black metal, filled with droning beats and soaring guitars, layered with singer Athros’ pained howling and interrupted by bursts of double kicks, takes on a meditative and transcendent quality. Visually, the band is whirling hair, smoke, and solemnity, with Athros’ belting his tortured lyrics to the sky and nodding rhythmically, eyes closed, lost in contemplation, when the band goes on extended instrumental sections. Forteresse was powerful, polished, and enthralling, and worth a look from any fan of the genre or of dark music in general.
Celestia is also known for their ethereal and atmospheric style of black metal, one that is rich in contemplative melodies and harsh, blast beat-backed layered guitars. Band founder and singer Noktu’s voice, which is characteristically a raspy, croaking, bark, was on point Friday, as was the furious guitar work and drumming. If there was a line to be drawn between the old school and new school at the show, Celestia representing the former and Forteresse the latter, the line was there but somewhat blurred. Forteresse’s droning, more experimental style certainly speaks to a newer side of black metal and dark music in general, where drone and noise are becoming more and more the rule and less the exception, but the band’s sound is still built upon the tenants of atmospheric black metal that were exemplified by Celestia’s set. Forteresse and Celestia complimented each other nicely, then, and were a well chosen showcase of Francophone black metal.

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