Sound: Firstly, if the mere thought of raw production causes you to run away from a release then you might not like this. However, regardless of it's cold, claustrophobic sound, this is an album you cannot miss. In a sea of average dsbm bands, along comes the majesty that is Gris, Formally Nifheim, in all it's depressive beauty. The sound is bleak and oppressive but beautiful. From the acoustic guitars playing a prominent part throughout the album, to the superbly made neo-classical masterpiece that is "La Dryade", violins, piano and all. Even a small guitar solo, when it's required. Each song is filled with so much raw emotion you can't help but feel moved and maybe even slightly saddened by it all. But you'll probably be too busy listening to the layers and layers of music in every song. The guitars are plentiful and ever-present, the drums are played perfectly to a high degree of virtuosity over the top of the soundscape, and the vocals... // 10
Lyrics: Oh my. Spitting, crying, shouting, all in Quebecois french. I have no idea what Icare is shouting about but whatever it is, it's something that seems to be eating his soul away at the inside. Never have I heard vocals so filled with bottomless emotion. Yells, screams and cries for help, layered perfectly on top of sound that drains every last reserve of happiness you might be feeling. This is depressive black metal vocals done right.
'Il Etait Une Foret' - Gets to the point and shows what is to come. This is an awesome sounding song, and everything only gets better from here. the vocals are tortured and bleak, and the acoustic guitar is always present in the middle of the mix.
'La Gala Des Gens Heureux' - Starts with sounds of a crowd and the ramblings of Icare. The music is loud and relentless, only stopping for a brief, quiet acoustic guitar interlude, before dragging you back into the darkness.
'Cicatrices' - Opens quiet and deceptively slow, Icare returning with his vocals. The song then takes on a different form altogether, employing the help of a piano, and a suitable guitar lead. After a bleak, soul crushing moment the music starts and stops, the acoustic guitar returning and sometimes being accompanied by distorted, angry black metal and Icares twisted vocals.
'Veux-Tu Danser?' - Opens with sounds of a child laughing - but it isn't long until the acoustic guitar enters and the sounds are corrupted by Icares spitting, choking vocals. This is possibly the best song on the album, excluding the final song, which is in a league of its own. This is also Icares best vocal performance. The piano returns, and the music suddenly speeds up at the end- the piano, guitar and drums all flowing together and feeding off each others sound to create something incredibly powerful.
'Profonde Misanthropie' - A slow, slow guitar lead accompanied with a wistful piano line and a demonic atmosphere. Slow, saddening, and ends the heavy part of the album with style.
'La Dryade' - First time I listened to this album I was not expecting this song at all. I was expecting the violins and guitars to be twisted into a cacophonous wall of emotion, much like the other songs on the album. But for 10 minutes, all I heard was violins, cellos, pianos and an airy, acoustic guitar. Moody, Funereal, each instrument concocting one of the most beautiful, (a word I have thrown about a lot in the course of this review, but for good reason) and compelling outros I've heard for a long time. It really is that good. I have nothing bad to say about it. // 10
Overall Impression: This is quintessential in the library of anybody who enjoys black metal, shoegaze, or anybody who likes their music depressive, filled with infinite beauty and unrelenting sadness. I wish I had something bad to say about it but I don't. It's an album I can't help but return to, time and time again. After listening to All six songs, the shortest clocking at 8 minutes long, 'La Dryade' closes the album perfectly. The Acoustic guitars are expertly positioned and reflect the bleak atmosphere and tone of the songs, and Icares vocals make the release outstanding. 'Sombres Forets' Have a similar sound and style, even being from the same scene and country- (Infact, both 'Sombres Forets' and 'Gris' have collaborated in 'Miserere Luminis') But Gris's Il Etait... Tops them all. It truly is a masterpiece of the genre. // 10