Ah, the « fin de siècle » atmosphère ! Decadence, perversion, sturm und drang, drug-induced poetry, alcoholic cynicism and the concept of 'la charogne' so delightfully put into words by J.K. Huysmans. The art of the 19th century, a magnificent sense of decay so rarely correctly put into music. In the Metal scene, the fin de siècle ethos used to be part of the Black Metal scene in the late 90's, with bands like Cradle Of Filth, Ebonylake or Forbidden Site leading the rats. But, as the 90's turned into the 2000's, and the fin de siècle turned into the begining of a new era, the public lost interest in the decadent motto. The symphonic Black Metal bands disappeared one by one, and Dark Metal became a tongue-in-cheek insult to describe bands that were using an semi-extreme attitude to sell a completly commercially prostituted music.
This brings us to the first album from german duo Porta Nigra. Their first EP, released in September 2012, was showcasing a promising take on the classic Black Metal formula, blending it with some Doom/Death elements and a sense of decadence I thought lost a decade ago. The cover art shows perfectly what the album is all about : absinthe, a ritual which is today more a kind of way to get drunk on a strong alcohol (and not with the original recipe, since real absinthe is generally illegal in some countries, including France) than the lifestyle it was during the 'bohème' period. Fin De Siècle is an album whose music is bathed in the languid vapors of this alcohol, occillating between calm suites of delicate music and violent eruptions of anger.
The basic is Black Metal, albeit not your usual corpsepainted-goblin-screaming-loudly-in-the-forest kind. Catchy choruses, tortured yet guitars, eerie keyboards and ghost-like vocals are the norm, with an atmosphere not unlike some of the best occult/horror Doom bands coming from Italy. The mixing of genres is good and well done, culminating in the impressive song 'Megalomaniac'. Porta Nigra manage to create something unique in nowadays Black Metal, yet it still miss a little something that would make them nothing but awesome. Some kind of frenzy that you can find in the last Ebonylake album, some kind of theatratical madness like Notre Dame used to have, or the same kind of avant-gardism as Le Grand Guignol (the band from Luxembourg : check their only album, it's worth every penny you'll spent for it).
But considering that Fin De Siècle is a first album, with a unique identity of its own and resurrecting a way of thinking that's sorely missing nowadays, I bet that it's just the begining of more good things to come from Porta Nigra. So let us raise our glasses to them, and hope they'll continue their decadent descend into madness for more years to come. I'll be delighted to listen to that.
words by Laurent Lignon