Before delving into this review, let it be known that this reviewer is truly not one for the black metal scene, or most metal at all, but hearing about this up-and-comer was more than a little intriguing. When going through the list of possible artists to review this cycle, the name Grylle stuck out as something menacing and chthonic… or at the very least, French. Further reading showed that this bold artist thought himself a serious black metal musician but with a twist: All his music is played using only medieval instruments. This hearkened back to last month’s Valediction from synthwave metal genius GosT, an album so well-crafted that the artist himself had to come out and publicly state that the album was “100% COMPUTER music” and no traditional instruments were used in its production. Still high off the rush of how elegantly GosT continues to twist or break the rules of the genre, curiosity blossomed into excitement and Grylle became top of the list to listen to.
Unfortunately, due to being relatively new–and no doubt to stick to the black metal theme of taking on a mysterious persona and pseudonym–not very much is known about Grylle save for his use of hypnotically played medieval instruments juxtaposed with the calming shriek and hiss of his vocals. Antiq, the label he is associated with, states that Grylle was fully conceptualized in 2013 by its single composer, a man called Hyvermor. During the next five years, Hyvermor released the darkly ambitious Monstres et Mervilles through Antiq, the disarmingly soothing Les Nuits sur les Monts as a self-release, and the compilation album Mondes Vermeils, a reissue of the previous demo tapes combined as one, also graciously released by Antiq. This year, he presented his first full-length album, Les Grandes Compagnies.
En la forest dennuyeuse tristesse opens the album with medieval stringed instruments and flutes playing a persistent melody while a recording of a male and female voice speaking French floats above in a haunting reverb. The two voices speak in discordant sentences, as if lost in different places, throughout the song slowly receiving a dark growl as Hyvermor harmonizes the final words, almost as if to symbolize the unity between past and present found here. Hot off the end of the first track, Les Dernières Fées de France blares out with a series of guttural hisses backed by a possessed parade of strings and drums that seek to both placate and suppress the demon they have summoned. The next track, France, qui te veult mal?, introduces itself with a cheerful flute that abruptly erupts into a howl as Hyvermor screams his manifesto amid the mechanically played strings that surround him. One can almost feel the heat coming off of the mercilessly plucked instruments as Hyvermor leads this epic 8-minute song into a hypnotized flurry, the speed never slowing as the music fades away. Following this, Gothique Anjevin is just shy of 10 minutes, making it the longest on the album. Within, harmonized screams and wails fight to be heard over a vicious chord progression and a fervently smacked tambourine. About a third of the way through, we are treated to a calm and intricate solo from the strings, Hyvermor and his tambourines bursting back through with an aching cry at the exact midway point. The latter half includes a pleading speech followed by the now sombre notes of the strings, even the drums losing their energy as the track ends in a hum and click, and then silence. After two powerful and long songs, Hommaje a la Pomme de Pin is a welcome deviation, consisting only of the strings playing a haunting melody before seemingly speaking to one another and agreeing on a sort of waltz, the instrumental track ending on a long and echoing note.
Halfway through the album, Loz en Croissant picks up the slack when it starts, a softly rolling sort of melody melting into a mysterious hum and hushed drums. When Hyvermor makes his return, the pace increases, and the melody nearly falls apart, the unnamed musicians playing either in a trance or to the point of exhaustion as the demonic presence drives them on to the pounding of a drum. A strange turn occurs when the next track, Que chacun sonje a se pourvoir!, rattles in, the medieval equivalent of a bass guitar taking the spotlight as Hyvermor spits and gags out his next infernal speech. There is little to do but to sit there and take it, the awkward beat ending in a few quiet notes from the bass and assuring the listener a sigh of relief. Les guerres Picrocholines has a heavy focus on the drums, the rhythmic beat combined with Hyvermor’s harmonized sing-speaking turning the song into something akin to a demon’s sea shanty. After this is the shortest track on the album, Quand je bois du vin clairet, which is a 2-minute instrumental piece that sounds much like the band playing during the royal ball moments before the king drops dead of the poison poured into his wine. Suddenly, Le Pacte des Villes explodes in a primal roar and some of the fastest strings on the album, the drums mercilessly pounded while Hyvermor shouts out in the hopes that anyone will hear him. As if this track wasn’t hard enough, the most modern-sounding guitar on the album strums out monotonous and threatening notes, the heartbeat behind the powerful drums and spiraling vocals. As quickly as it came, the anger and violence retreats, the latter half of the track a cheerful song played in the town square by strangers begging for money. Wir Zogen in das Feld wraps up the album nicely with a funeral march sung by crying townsfolk and led by Hyvermor, the beats from two drums and a tinkling knell the closing to Grylle’s medieval saga.
With haunting melodies, a persistent drum, and a filthy and deeply emotional vocal performance, Grylle has expanded the definition of what black metal is, and has successfully made a mark with his bold entry to the genre. Perhaps you too aren’t so much a fan of metal. Maybe you are trying to find some weird new band to impress your friends. Or maybe French black metal played on medieval instruments is exactly your type of thing. Either way, it is definitely in your best interest to add Les Grandes Compagnies to your collection.
- Hyvermor – Vocals, all instruments
- En la forest dennuyeuse tristesse
- Les Dernières Fées de France
- France, qui te veult mal?
- Gothique Anjevin
- Hommaje a la Pomme de Pin
- Loz en Croissant
- Que chacun sonje a se pourvoir!
- Les guerres Picrocholines
- Quand je bois du vin clairet
- Le Pacte des Villes
- Wir Zogen in das Feld