French blackened hardcore outfit Plebeian Grandstand have continuously cultivated an ever-building hype and air of mystique about them, reaching back to 2010 with their debut album How Hate Is Hard To Define, which paired Converge’s impassioned yet spazzy hardcore with darker, subtly avant garde textures informed by the likes of Deathspell Omega. 2014’s Lowgazers generated a fair bit of hype as the band explored their technicality, hitting metal blogs as being described as blackened mathcore; with a tag like that, who wouldn’t get excited? It was a fresh take on the sound at the time which would ultimately fail to transcend an increasingly crowded space; their 2016 record False Highs, True Lows ramped up the blackened cues, yet fell short of doing much beyond what Deathspell Omega had already done with their short-form Drought the year before. It could be seen from far away that a band like Plebeian Grandstand was meant to transcend previously established palettes and to forge a sound of their own, and while the record was vicious and exhilarating, the band still sat in the shadows.
False Highs was incredibly important in Plebeian Grandstand developing their sound into darker territories and instrumental in their growing presence in the listening habits of those interested in the weirdest and darkest reaches of hardcore. Their latest effort Rien ne suffit, coming a whole five years later, finally sees the band taking those wild artistic liberties and crafting the masterwork that they were always destined to. Rein ne suffit is truly an avant garde work, building off the False Highs foundation of panic chords and blastbeats with a broad array of influences ranging from industrial, noise rock, post-metal, and jazz. Opening track “Masse critique” wastes no time establishing the record’s sonic vocabulary with swarming synthesizers, throat-searing howls, and wildly syncopated drums. Comparisons can be made to the likes of Daughters or SWANS in the song’s construction, perhaps draped in the sonic palette of the now unfortunately defunct Dodecahedron. The track is outright terrifying as the noise builds and collapses, leaving vocalist Adrien Broué howling (and seemingly, nearly gagging) to himself.
The album that follows is horrific, devastating, and punishing. “À droite du démiurge, à gauche du néant” elaborates upon these developments, and for over seven minutes, offers a diverse set of soundscapes that continue to decimate with searing guitars, snappy drums, and wailing keys. Producer and synth player Amaury Sauvé is invaluable to this record’s entire aesthetic, providing much of the fascinating textures that make Rein ne suffit so jarring. “Tropisme” plays with these electronics early on in the album and feels like the sort of thing that Norway’s SHINING could have done had they not abandoned their Blackjazz sound (think “Blackjazz Deathtrance” distilled to its most menacing moments).
From there, the back-to-back onslaught of “Part maudite” and “Angle mort” are the band seemingly at their baseline and most familiar, offering up apocalyptic hardcore elevated by immense layers of noise and atmosphere. Even at their most metallic and riff-centric with guitarist Simon Chaubard commanding the frontlines, Sauvé feels present with a diverse array of textures, whether it be piercing synth embellishments or distorted electronic samples. Drummer Ivo Kaltchev provides a highly technical and intricate performance across the record, deftly moving between claustrophobic blasts and boundless jazz-inspired drum work. Locked in step with Kaltchev is bassist Olivier Lolmède, who provides a terrifying growl beneath the wreck of Rien ne suffit.
Rein ne suffit feels like a living, breathing record, with much attention given to its cinematic flow with clear disparate movements. During the record’s midsection, “Espoir nuit naufrage” provides a brief respite from the chaos, but is no less eerie with its use of sampled applause, ambient field recordings, and sustained feedback. Through its nearly eight-minute runtime, the track builds a hypnotic trance and bleeds into the similarly loosely structured “Nous en sommes là” which plays around with spacious and sizzling synths and spoken word, perhaps echoing Godspeed You! Black Emperor‘s darker impulses — of coursed pushed further and kept more succinct.
“Rien n’y fait” brings back the metal, cuing the album’s collapse with infectious rhythms writhing through a shroud of distortion. “Jouis, camarade” is packed with defining moments for the album, including a repeating tremolo motif and an increasingly desperate atmosphere. Finale “Aube” offers a suitably trudging and brutal ending, dipping into sludge and a hint of catastrophic death-doom that lays waste to any sense of pretense that this grandiose record had previously implied.
At four albums deep in their career, Plebeian Grandstand have finally realized their potential with the incredibly ambitious and adventurous Rien ne suffit. It’s like an art-house horror flick that insists upon itself, sure, but it’s expertly crafted and effective in the way it builds and releases anxiety, often times fixing its lens on the grotesque just long enough to become uncomfortable. Rien ne suffit sees the band poised at the zenith of avant garde black metal where so many of the progenitors have otherwise collapsed, pivoted, or simply became too problematic for wider acclaim. Their next steps may even perhaps shape the genre forever. In the now, Plebeian Grandstand have surpassed expectations and delivered one of the more remarkable (and frightening) extreme metal records this year.
Plebeian Grandstand’s Rien ne suffit was released November 19th, 2021 through Debemur Morti Productions and can be purchased at this location.