When Famine of Peste Noire fame set-up his label La Mesnie Herlequin, one of his intentions was to "to delve into the depths of French and Old World Black Metal to uncover, region by region, their historical and cultural archetypes and local literatures". Autarcie's Horizons Funestes is the first attempt at plumbing those depths outside of Peste Noire; La Mesnie Herlequin's website describes it as "a CD that smells like winter in backwoods France, like the End to come," exactly what the label aims for. Horizons Funestes, with its DIY sloppiness and raw production certainly fits the bill, and is a definite sign that the label is off to a good start.
Autarcie's style is old school and no frills. Most of the riffing involves interlocking tremolo picked guitars, one lower end so as to denote rhythm guitar and the other providing lead. Blast beats buoy the guitars during fast passages. The bass is audible and provides a low end which adds depth to music which could otherwise sound thin. The production has a decrepit rawness that lends itself perfectly to the music, helping create that raw, wintry atmosphere attributed to the album by the label. Vocalist and lyricist Nokturn rasps his way over the music satisfyingly. Autarcie tap the French tradition of melancholy and sombre melody that bands such as Vlad Tepes and Mütiilation pioneered, and it's quite possible that the duo behind the band are fans of fellow Frenchmen Celestia. They are by no means a carbon copy band, however; rather than simply worshipping the old sound, they invoke it to create something individual.
Autarcie's unique spirit shines most in the porousness of their song structure. Tracks are long, the shortest passing just over 6 minutes, and duo take the time to explore many soundscapes in each track. Melancholic passages may give way to some particularly beautiful lead or little trick that grants a sense of disheveled adventure to every song. As said, it has a sloppy feeling, as if the songs need to keep moving for fear of otherwise falling to pieces. It's part of the pleasure of Autarcie, but in some ways also a weakness. The free spirited nature of the music at once satisfies as it does leave one unbalanced, wishing for something a bit more stable. Sometimes the threat implicit in playing with a double edged sword can provide a thrill though, and without that sense of the ephemeral, Horizons Funestes wouldn't be the same.
Autarcie provide a unique experience with Horizons Funestes, and at their best provide a pleasurable experience. Any fan of French or raw black metal will find much to enjoy here, and it's worth a listen. Autarcie are a hidden gem that deserve more recognition, and anyone who listens to Horizons Funestes will hear why.
Trial Track: "Citadelle"