Review by Ves on May 31, 2023.
The French black metal scene often gets a lot of love from enthusiasts of the genre, and for good reason. Over the years, and especially in the 21st century, the French have given us some of the most important black metal albums since the demise of the 2nd wave, if not of all time. One can go naming bands of various flavours of black metal, from the evil and demonic members of Les Legiones Noire, to the avant-garde titans such as Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, there is something for every occasion. This also includes more modern takes on the genre, with elements of other musical styles creeping in through the atmosphere or riffage, while still maintaining the harshness and edge of black metal.
The topic of today's review is Aodon's 3rd album, Portraits, coming 3 years after their sophomore, 11069, released in 2020. The label people usually attach to Aodon is atmospheric black metal which is, in my opinion, too restrictive for the versatility at display within strong>Portraits. From your typical tremolo riffs over blast beats with reverb-soaked melodies on top, to moody melodic passages, the band definitely includes all the hallmarks of atmospheric black metal. However, it is the moments when they stray away from this formula where some of the most interesting ideas on the album surface. The breakdown halfway through the second track, 'Egon', screams with a post-rock attitude before evolving into a short tremolo passage. The chuggy gallops on 'Mayerson' have a lot more meat in their tone and groove than your typical atmo-black bridge would, and the dark clean intro on 'Andreas' may have a cliche feel but sets the tone of the track perfectly. The sombre bridge on 'Liza' gives you just enough breathing room between two barrages of ruthless double bass and thick tremolo riffs with a simple melody holding the top end in the background. The riffs on 'Inaki' are exactly what I would want a band with post and black metal influences to write, driving a steady groove without compromising on the atmosphere.
The album has an overarching concept where each track bears the name of a person who was guided towards their fall by a different element: misery, ego, addiction, belief, violence, obedience, abuse, destruction, or love. The lyrics take us on this journey, painting each of their destinies beautifully, with all the rage, hostility but also vulnerability one would look for in such a work of art.
For anyone who likes losing themself in immersive atmospheric pieces, I would highly recommend giving Portraits a listen. With the right balance of a contemporary sound and traditional atmospheric black metal elements, it is easily one of the better offerings of the genre today.
Rating: 9 out of 10918