By Jonathan Smith
La Mort du Soleil is the third full-length album from Quebec’s Sombres Forêts. Both aesthetically and musically, it promises to be a darker, less dreamy take on the kind of material offered by acts such as Alcest, Les Discrets, and Sleeping Peonies. La Mort du Soleil‘s cover art brings to mind nautical tragedies of the past, and sole member Annatar‘s robe and distinct application of face paint reminds one less of scowling corpses and more the exaggerated artificiality of gothic theatre. Sombres Forêts shows a willingness to avoid the most clichéd of black metal imagery while choosing to retain much of its aesthetic power. Musically, however, La Mort du Soleil is both derivative and lethargic. It isn’t bad, but simply average. The blackened shoegaze elements are all here— resonating, tortured vocals (“Étrangleurs de Soleils”), acoustic notes echoing against a swirling, ambient backdrop (“Des Épaves”), sad, minimalist piano passages (“Effondrement”), and swelling tremolo riffs that lead into crashing power chord progressions (“L’Éther”). The record presents all the right pieces, but put together they don’t offer much of anything which stands out from similar efforts made by others. Even one of the strongest aspects of the album, Annatar’s throat-shredding vocals, are difficult to distinguish from those of the vocalists in similar bands. Atmosphere is key to these kinds of albums, and here it sounds like it has been reduced to a technical blueprint or checklist. The results don’t move me emotionally one way or another, but nor does Sombres Forêts appear to be aiming for the sort of detached, “cold” experience that is at times explored by some depressive black metal acts. The result is an album which is admirable in its aesthetic approach, but nonetheless disappointingly mundane in its musical execution.