Les Ténèbres Du Dehors

Elend - Les Ténèbres Du Dehors ©1996 Holy Records
1. Nocturne
2. Ethereal Journeys
3. The Luciferian Revolution
4. Eden
5. The Silence Of Light
6. Antienne
7. Dancing Under The Closed Eyes Of Paradise
8. Les Ténèbres Du Dehors

Les Ténèbres du Dehors is the second release in a trilogy of albums recently completed by the pan-European music consortium Elend. The trilogy is concerned with events and themes found in Milton's Paradise Lost, with specific detail on Lucifer's fall from grace and descent into Hell. This album is concerned specifically with Lucifer's defiance and the quasi-revolutionary act of denouncing the Christian god. The theme is dark and so is the music of Elend. With an impeccable sense of atmosphere and drama, Elend achieves a real sense of beauty and darkness within the framework of complex and difficult compositions.

The music is a combination of neo-classicism, neo-romanticism and ethereal ambient, with a hint of atonality and dissonance. The sound is defined by a combination of synthesizers, violins and varying vocal styles. The synthesizer programming is top notch, sounding very much like a live orchestra in many places. The music flows from lush organic melodies infused in harmony, into dark and blaring atonal passages, and finally into loose free-form ethereal ambience. The dominant sound is hauntingly Romantic, often times bordering on transcendent and otherworldly.

The vocals are provided primarily by two soprano singers (Eve Gabrielle Siskind and Nathalie Barbary). Seperate, their vocals are beautiful; together, unbelievable. But the two composers, Renaud Tschimer and Alexander Hasnaoui are also heard by way of whispers, low singing, and (interestingly enough) growling. The growling and shrieking really adds another dimension to the music, creating a foreboding and threatening atmosphere in many of the calmer moments and creating chaos and dissonance in the atonal segments of the music. Some of the best parts occur when the sopranos are singing in high, angelic unison, while horrible shrieks blister about (usually representing Lucifer). The contrast is truly staggering, and it must have taken some degree of good intuition on the band's part to know where to properly integrate the polar opposites and to what effect.

This album is a fine way to transcend the mundane; it is one of those rare pieces of music that allows the listener to drift away into other worlds (in this case, the pastoral Paradise and the very layers of the abyss). When I listen to this album I quickly forget the everyday world and find myself immersed in the immaterial and ethereal. The music is dark, but also very beautiful. Les Ténèbres du Dehors is truly a classic.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 03/2000

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The Umbersun

Elend - The Umbersun ©1998 Music For Nations
1. Du Tréfonds Des Ténèbres
2. Melpomene
3. Moon Of Amber
4. Apocalypse
5. Umbra
6. The Umbersun
7. In The Embrasure Of Heaven
8. The Wake Of The Angel
9. Au Tréfonds Des Ténèbres

Hooh boy, now THIS is evil. Anyone who thinks that "true" black metal is dark, should seriously take a look at The Umbersun, an album that might very well constitute one of the vilest, darkest pieces of music ever written. A friend of mine once demanded that I remove this album from my car stereo while we drove through the mountains one overcast night. It was simply too much; a total negative sensory overload. He felt drained and sickened by it. Perhaps I should explain the album and its effect in some detail.

This is the third and final chapter in Elend's first trilogy, the Officium Tenebrarum. As explained in my other Elend review, the trilogy is concerned with the fall and descent of Lucifer into Hell (as seen in Milton's Paradise Lost). This final chapter finds Lucifer comfortably (?) in Hell and in a rather introspective mood. According to old band interviews this album represents death, whereas "Les Ténèbres du Dehors" represents rebellion. Fair enough. This album plays like a soundtrack to Dante's Inferno, only less comforting.

The album alternates between two primary compositional styles: the hauntingly gentle and the chaotic, atonal, blaringly loud, serpentine-flames-and-whirlwinds of-hell, total mindfucks. It is the second variety that caused my friend so much anxiety, though the first isn't exactly a day at the circus either. Elend took the old formula and turned up the atonality. Rather than bathe the listener in warm Romantic textures, The Umbersun would rather attack the listener with the dark underbelly of Modernism. Which isn't a bad thing, insofar as the listener doesn't approach the album with a headache. The music still retains much of its ambience, but the ambience is intensely dark and depressing here. There is beauty amid the chaos, but it's the beauty of a ghostly female apparition floating among the tombstones, rather than that of an ascendant angel.

The vocals are still characterized primarily by angelic soprano lines, male whispers, and terrible (terribly cool that is) shrieks. The shrieks are everywhere now, and blast with furious frequency throughout the music's chaotic textures. The soprano vocals here sound far darker (and less sensuous) than before, given the somewhat different context of the music; listen to the soprano work on the Bram Stoker's Dracula soundtrack for an idea. This album features a good-sized choir, and Elend makes good use of it. The choir is best used in creating dissonance: in one part the choir is made to sing in contradictory vocal harmonies and in another, the choir actually screams and shrieks in total disarray!

This album is dark. Really dark. It's aggressive, chaotic and generates a suffocating atmosphere of horror and alienation. Is it any good? It is extremely effective at creating the desired mood. Some would suggest it is too effective. It certainly isn't easy listening; it is not something you simply plop down and listen to with a beer and a bag of chips. I rarely listen to it, but when I do I find myself totally immersed in its aura of discord. It is utterly convincing; there is never a moment when you don't feel the total impact of the music. It effectively communicates the essence of Hell in the Judea-Christian tradition. Is that a recommendation? You be the judge.

Super Fun Tip: Stick it in at a party and watch the contortions on the guests' faces.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 03/2000

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Winds Devouring Men

Elend - Winds Devouring Men ©2003 Prophecy Productions
1. The Poisonous Eye
2. Worn Out With Dreams
3. Charis
4. Under War-broken Trees
5. Away From Barren Stars
6. Winds Devouring Men
7. Vision Is All That Matters
8. The Newborn Sailor
9. The Plain Masks Of Daylight
10. A Staggering Moon

Having completed the trilogy of scary, religious based music, Elend has since taken a little time to ask the friends of Satan to take up vocal positions elsewhere and have instead created a much more soothing sound with their latest release, Winds Devouring Men. Elend's sense of neo-classical darkwave composition remains fully intact, drifting a bit more towards the terrority of Black Tape for a Blue Girl. The somber tenor voice is backed by lilting female singing and everyone who ventures near a microphone sounds just a bit down on their spiritual luck. Winds Devouring Men is by no means a cheerful record, despite the lack of hoarse screaming and shrill demonic ranting. Moments on this album drift into deconstructed territory, but for the most part the darkwave framework remains intact.

Winds Devouring Men is an impressive album that should well serve artsy black metal fans who desire classical music for the demented. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the men from Elend were given a full scale orchestra and an unlimited budget, but unfortunately the small Prophecy Productions label wouldn't have resources such as that. However, given the confines of synthesized orchestration and the power of their imaginations, Winds Devouring Men is a powerful, seductive CD that follows up previous Elend releases with impressive results.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2004

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