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Year of No Light


Conspiracy Records

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Year of No Light are a metal band from Bordeaux, France. That seems odd to me. I have a mental image of long-haired kids in black t-shirts, ratty jeans, and sneakers; with Black Sabbath playing on their headphones as they ride skateboards through tight European streets, out of the town, to go hide amongst the grape vines and smoke weed... But i wonder how much similarity there is between suburban Georgia metalheads and those from the French wine country. Then again, Bordeaux is probably a pretty big city over there, and i doubt the vineyards are easily accessible to most residents.

Well, no matter. YONL are a French metal band who have created a fascinating, complex record. They are a six-piece: two drummers, three guitarists, and a bassist. There are no vocals here. Instead, YONL take the epic slow growth of a post-rock song (a la, Explosions in the Sky) with the fast riffage of a hard metal act (a la, Mastodon) and some dark atmospherics (a la, Opeth or Alsace).

It is good listening, really.

A lot of what they are doing reminds me of Yob or Yakuza -- that newer breed of metal band that are not just about ultra-fast riffing and screaming or simply trying to imitate Tony Iommi. Sure, there is the heaviness to the music, the feel of deep oppression in the furious guitars, but there is something more. YONL is one of the bands moving metal forward into something new and different.

The music here is distorted, complex and flows in lovely ways. The songs are long -- twelve minutes is the average here. The songs grow and transform, mutate as intense layers of effects are added then taken away, as one drummer speeds up while the other destroys a cymbal, as three guitarists riff off in different directions only to come back to one massive droning riff a few minutes later.

Let me describe one tune, which is typical of this whole record. The third song is called Hiérophante and it clocks in at a healthy 13:17. It begins with growling guitars, long echoed notes tortured out of the strings to reverb over cymbal heavy drumming. Then an eBow comes in, and the droning takes a different direction. The drumming become intense, the two drummers building waves that pound over the listener, while layers and layers of guitars just tear by. At almost nine minutes in, the song reaches a crescendo, where both drummers are going as fast as they can and all the guitars are strumming furiously. It is not at all like speed metal, but instead is a thick dense drone, the constant cymbal crashes blurring into one as the drumbeats speed up to an incessant tapping, like an annoyed person in a meeting tapping their pen on the table while waiting to yell at someone else for being an idiot. All the while, guitars just whirr away. YONL keep that up for about two minutes, then everything sort of fades out, with a long meandering ambient outro...

I would love to see them do this live.

So this is metal mixed with something else. There is the spirit of Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor mixed in with the Black Sabbath and Metallica that makes up YONLs metal DNA.

I find this to be an intense yet enjoyable listen. It is not easy listening music, but the music is so dense and complex that i find it oddly comforting in the way it distracts my brain from the mundanity of my workaday existence. And after all, isn't truly great metal about escapism?

I wonder how you say "Bang your head" in French?

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