Heretoir, a German post-black metal duo on Northern Silence, have recently caught my ear with their depressive, shoegaze-y, and atmospheric blend of black metal. Much like genre leader Alcest, Heretoir’s debut self-titled is a contemplative listen filled with catchy riffs, atmospheric layered melodies, and more than a couple of instrumentals. If you are trying to get a friend into darker, heavier music (though Heretoir is by no means heavy on the grand scale of heaviness), add Heretoir to the likes of Agalloch, Alcest, and Fen.
The album, which opens with a dreamy, mood setting acoustic, quickly gives way to the post-rock influenced “Fatigue,” which features haunting, echoing vocals, pained screams à la Alcest, and minor key picked melodies that dance sadly over underlying strumming. It is pleasing to the ear and quite catchy and, at first listen, so much like Alcest that some may fault Heretoir for imitation. While there are strong similarities, there is a different feel between the two—Heretoir is rawer, relies more on traditional black metal as a base, and does not bring melody to the front of the composition in the way that Neige does with Alcest. I think the two can coexist peacefully.
Two more instrumentals follow “Fatigue,” including the mournful “0” that mixes two unsettling vocal samples behind a mix of guitars and electronics. “Weltschmerz” is next and is one of the catchier and more black metal influenced tracks on the album, replete with blast beats, whining guitar progressions, and growls. Heretoir will occasionally enter drum driven grooves throughout the album, which break the songs up nicely, and will use the double kick in a way that calls to mind death metal more than black metal.
The highlight of the album is “To Follow the Sun,” a groove-filled, melancholic song that swaps out the typical singing for watery, lost female vocals (Ida Helleboe) that at times are spoken and at other times cry out in anguish. The result is ethereal, wandering, nostalgic, and haunting. Though the rest of the album is quite good, on “To Follow the Sun” Heretoir achieves a special level of atmospheric and cinematic post-black metal that has a near urban feel to it, a song that speaks to modernity and reality and not the sort of whimsical fairy tale-esque dreaming that so often comes with the genre. The song ends memorably, lost in layered whining guitars and distorted screams, and was the one song that was stuck in my head following my first listen of the album.
Heretoir’s eponymous debut is quite good and will not speak solely to listeners of metal. The markings of metal are there, but are packaged in such a way as to make them palatable to listeners of many different types of music. Though not quite on the same level of polish as a Neige project (Alcest, etc.), Heretoir has put a very good foot forward for a debut full-length. A little bit more focus and their next album could be excellent.
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