For being part of a genre many critics didn’t prophesy any longevity for, Les Discrets sure have been around for quite a while. Since 2003 (!), the brainchild of Fursy Teyssier has put out two records and several EPs/split releases within the threshold of gloomy, atmospheric post-(black)metal/rock, previously extrapolated by personal friend Stéphane ‘Neige’ Paut and his project, Alcest. 14 years after its inception, the band (completed by Teyssier’s wife and artistic collaborator Audrey Hadorn) now released Prédateurs, its third and most daring full-length to date.
During the album’s creation, Teyssier hinted at a possible stylistic shift Les Discrets were undergoing multiple times over social media: less metal and more electronic influences. Speculations grew after drummer Winterhalter (Alcest) amicably chose to no longer be involved in the project because of said evolution. Would Prédateurs be a radical break with everything the band came to be known for? Could it be a breaking point in the connection between band and fanbase? Well, no, not necessarily. The changes aren’t exactly subtle, but neither are they substantial enough to warrant such a dramatic description.
Case in point: “Virée Nocturne” (‘Nightly Trip’) only hints at such alterations through its straight-forward, trip hop-informed drum beat. Other than that, not much has changed; the guitars are still positively drenched in delay and the melodies are still highly sumptuous. Teyssier and Hadorn, through their melodious vocal interplay, create a calming atmosphere around the track’s instrumental. Sadly, this ethereal delivery made it hard for me to actually make out the lyrics, so I can’t really give you a proper translation (I just wanted to boast with my French anyway). What I can give you, though, is the record’s overarching theme: the unequal liaison between man and nature.
The combination of music and environmentalist involvement isn’t unheard of, especially in the French metal scene; giants like Gojira have rallied for a better treatment of our planet for years. Nevertheless, it’s good to see bands working for a cause they truly believe in, and if that’s what it takes to propagate a better relationship between mankind and mother earth, a vocal group of artists keeping the pressing concerns of our time in the public consciousness, then so be it.
But don’t feel too safe now, because “Vanishing Beauties” sees the aforementioned hints at electronic elements flourish into a formidable hybrid of the band’s core sound and a trip hop-heavy approach to ‘post-‘ music; the influence of acts like Portishead is almost tangible in this song. A throbbing bass synth is counterpointed by the clean guitars, while the drums once more rely on a rather simple but effective beat. Various synthetic sounds are strewn about here and there to flesh out the composition, while Teyssier’s deep vocals sound almost robotic when compared to his earlier display. Still, this unusual, contrasting atmosphere is very potent and evokes just as much emotion as any song on Les Discrets’ previous recordings. And the following tracks, like “Fleur des Murailles” (‘Wallflower’) or “Le Reproche” (‘The Reproach’, duh), mostly follow in suit.
As the last formal song on Prédateurs (the album is closed by the instrumental “Lyon – Paris 7h34”), “The Scent of Spring (Moonraker)” has the honor/duty to pull together the different strands of the record without sounding like too much of a mash-up. Luckily, it does so with bravour. Opening with an ominous, droning synth and crystalline guitars which quickly change into a sitar-like motif, the song develops slowly, building up in scope with the addition of more and more elements over time. One would expect a climax, a crushing crescendo to resolve the tension; instead, all instruments simply fade away, quietly.
I tried to make it a point to listen to Prédateurs only while in public transportation; that’s where the idea for this album was conceived after all. Many factors, from train delays to noisy interventions by other passengers, hindered this complete immersion (thanks for nothing, Deutsche Bahn), so there’s no way for me to comment on Teyssier’s claims that the album works best under those circumstances. But I digress. It is obvious that Prédateurs represents a transitional phase for Les Discrets, an experimental effort to break free from preconceived notions of their music. This is a noble goal in and of itself, but the record just leaves a few too many loose ends untied to be a true representation of Teyssier and Hadorn’s shared vision of change. Nevertheless, Prédateurs is a good record, and a solid platform for them to build upon in the future.
Notable Tracks: “Virée Nocturne”; “Fleur des Murailles”; “Rue Octavio May”
FFO: Slowdive, Portishead, Alcest