Not many in the English speaking world know this, but there’s a whole French science fiction tradition out there which predates the explosion of the genre in America and Britain in the 20th century. Some of its latter heirs, like Moebius, are famous enough; some of their works, like Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin’s Valérian and Laureline, have even seen wide publication in the West, the aforementioned example as a film. Regardless of its current popularity, the French science fiction tradition is a magnificent one, filled with epic journeys into space that include detailed musings on astronomy. This is due to the fact that many of the original writers working in the scene were astronomers themselves, welding their love of science and their love of fantasy into the nascent science fiction genre. Examples abound but Nicolas Camille Flammarion (of the famous Flammarion engraving) is perhaps the most widely recognized as the progenitor of this genre of literature.
Now why the hell am I talking to you about this? It’s probably because when you listen to today’s premiere, a blisteringly and majestically avantgarde track from Creature, the aesthetic tradition of French astronomy/science-fiction should be echoing in your head. Take a look at the cover art, which references the astronomical charts of the 18/19th centuries where French science fiction was born, and consider its name, “L’Odyssée Hyperpropulsée” (“The Hyper-propulsion Odyssey”), and those aesthetics will be clear. They invoke a sort of bright-eyed, wonder filled view of the universe, a place where the rational sciences can open up grand vistas of discovery.
In lesser works of art, all of this would have been left at the level of a gimmick or a style but here, Creature’s fierce dedication to his own unique style marries these ideas and the music. The track itself is pure symphonic black metal grandeur. The multitude of horns and other brass instruments on the track, coupled with the majestic backing vocals, amplify the air of drama and grandiose that is already black metal’s beating heart into great fanfare. This creates that sense of the “Odyssey” and the science fiction odyssey to boot, as the instruments convey the sort of grandeur which a journey through space must entail. Add in Raphaël Fournier’s vocals (the man who is Creature) and his unique French accent and you have the complete package. His timbre melds in really interesting ways with the guitars, driving home our recurring point regarding the potential of non-English languages in metal once again.
The end result is an incredibly economic black metal track, in that it wastes no time on ideas that don’t move it forward. And that’s saying something since there’s so much going on that it could easily have fallen into hedonistic indulgence. Instead, it’s a tight, comprehensive, and unique little journey, fully aware of its black metal roots while embellishing heavily with all those brass instruments. The album it is from, Ex Cathedra, is just as incredible and drops on June 26th via, who else, I, Voidhanger Records. Do me a personal favor and pre-order this one right here. Both the artist and the label, with their adamant dedication to underground, unique music, deserve our support.