Peste Noire’s discography is full of odd and quirky moments you never thought you would hear in a black metal recording. Front man and songwriter DJ Famine is like a cook that is willing to throw anything into the stew at least once just to see the look on the customer’s face. Surprisingly, this technique has often led to original and entertaining songs. With “L'ordure À L'état Pur” Peste Noire push their eccentricity to the limit, overloading the album with everything from accordions to electro beats to medieval madrigals and everything in between. However, little time seems to have been spent on considering how to put all these pieces together. The vast array of elements is whimsically tossed together in massive songs ranging from 8-20 minutes, leading to an erratic and disjointed album.
First, let’s look at the good news. The opening track, “Casse, Pêches, Fractures et Traditions” is easily one of the best songs Peste Noire has ever recorded. It is the only song on the album that is aesthetically and musically coherent, but more importantly, it is just a lot of fun. Black metal is fused with punk rock and French street music (accordion and trumpet included) to create a wild, playful and spirited song. If Gogol Bordello decided to go metal, it would probably sound a lot like this.
Unfortunately, the other tracks lack the songwriting and coherence of the opener, wondering from one style to the next, often without rhyme or reason. Take the twenty minute “J’avais Rêvé du Nord”. The first three minutes are composed of a dull, plodding riff peppered with sounds of sirens and guns. Then out of nowhere, the music turns into a beautiful acoustic folk with Audrey Sylvain’s excellent soprano vocals. What follows is about a ten minutes of epic, dramatic music that fluidly shifts between acoustic and metallic passages. However, instead of ending, the song continues with six minutes of dark, militant black metal, which is quite good, but in no way fits in with what came before. In sum, “J’avais Rêvé du Nord” is like three totally different songs mushed together.
Even more problematic than the composition is the fluctuation in the quality of the riffs. When Peste Noire isn’t surprising the listener with musical oddities, one often finds uninspired passages of metal. For example, the core riffs of “Cochon Carotte et Les Sœurs Crotte” and “Sale Famine Von Valfoutre” are quite innocuous. No matter how many horns, electro beats and audio samples Peste Noire throw on their albums, they are still a metal band; if the riffs are not up to par then all the oddities are reduced to smoke and mirrors hiding subpar black metal.
In general, long songs do not accentuate Peste Noire’s strengths. It takes a very good songwriter to make songs of this length work. While DJ Famine can piece together a few solid riffs into a kick ass cut of black metal, he lacks the craft and subtly to write the kinds of epics attempted on “L'Ordure à l'état Pur”. Still, there are enough interesting moments scattered throughout the album that any Peste Noire fan should give it a listen. Just don’t be shy to press the fast forward button.