The weather's changing for the colder now. Temperatures are dipping near freezing levels and cities across North America are seeing their first snow of the year. It makes the timing of the Québécois Cantique Lépreux's new album impeccable. The group of musicians that comprise the band has been together as this entity since 2014, but their presence in Québécois metal noir stretches into the last decade. They're involved in a number of bands including greats like Forteresse and also Chasse-Galerie among others. In 2016, they released their debut album, Cendres Célestes, and they follow it up later this month with their newest album, Paysages Polaires.
The frigid aura of Cantique Lépreux is at its most vivid on Paysages Polaires, especially in the album's opening track, "Le Feu Secret." The eight-minute endeavor opens on an icy gust of tremolo riffs strong enough to freeze a lake instantaneously. Yet, beneath the grim and frostbitten black metal, the band conceives a parallel between journeys in the frozen north to personal, internal quests for answers. This complete package makes a thoroughly engrossing song that makes a listener feel as if they're on the journey through the Arctic as well.
Listen to an exclusive stream of "Le Feu Secret" now and read an in-depth interview with Cantique Lépreux's vocalist and guitarist, Blanc Feu. Pre-order a copy of Paysages Polaires from Eisenwald. Find the band on Facebook. Also, check out an excerpt of René Chopin's original poem that inspired the lyrics and album title of the new album at the conclusion of the feature.
Metal Injection: The timing of Paysages Polaires is immaculate. The weather’s starting to change, snow’s falling where I live now. Your newest album has made for a wonderful soundtrack so far. How’s the weather in Québec lately?
Blanc Feu: October was unexpectedly cold and rainy, and we’ve had quite some snow in the last two weeks. That’s a great start for winter.
Metal Injection: For those who might not know about you all, Cantique Lépreux isn’t the only band you all are a part of in the Métal noir Québécois. You all spend time in Chasse-Galerie and Mêlée des Aurores. A couple of you gentlemen also have a hand in Forteresse to various capacities. These bands predate Cantique Lépreux. I’m curious to know what brought you three together to create this project—this homage to the icy expanses of Québec?
Blanc Feu: Well, we first met in a band called Culte d’Ébola in 2007. We all had our projects in the making. Matrak (bass) had Chasse-Galerie, I had Mêlée des Aurores and Cadavre (drums) was already playing with Chaos Catharsis. We had separate approaches but all those shared one thing: creating whatever we want. At some point, we felt like we needed a band that was focused of the spirit, so we tried to recreate the atmosphere that got us into black metal at first. I wouldn’t say that we are a clone band or a 90’s homage band, though.
Metal Injection: I wouldn’t say you all are either. Did you find it was the atmosphere or the spirit of many of the Scandinavian bands in the 90’s that brought you three together or the spirit of where you come from?
Blanc Feu: Maybe more about the atmosphere of the Scandinavian bands of the 90’s. I think there is not enough black metal like it was done in the 90’s. Legendary bands changed, for good or for bad. I can understand that: the will to evolve, experimenting or going back to your roots. The thing is, to me, it feels like it’s unfinished, thus we need people to carry the flame. There are lots of great bands today but it’s hard to come up with songs that have the grandeur of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or The Ancient Queen or Slottet I Det Fjerne. It’s not enough being minimal and it clearly is boring as fuck to rely only on your image. So that’s quite a challenge to try and find the chords to bring the listener to those cosmic realms.
Then, of course, we feel a great connection to Métal noir québécois and all the dedicated people who officiate in Forteresse, Monarque, and Délétère, just to name a few. And in case you wondered, yes, the question of Québec’s Sovereignty has always been essential to us.
Metal Injection: Paysages Polaires thematically surrounds the icy wilderness that literally surrounds where you call home. The album title and the middle three tracks from the album all take their name from René Chopin’s poem of the same name which comes from his Le Coeur en Exil. How did you come to find René Chopin’s work for this new album?
Blanc Feu: Quite accidentally. This is not someone whose work you’d study in literature classes. I found parts of the poem Paysages polaires in an anthology on Québec’s poetry. I had to look into microforms since I couldn’t find the whole thing in original. That’s when I realized that the poem was in three parts. We were about in the middle of the songwriting process then and I was missing lyrics for three songs (lucky me). I brought the poem I had copied by hand and it took only two rehearsals to set the lyrics to the music, a perfect match.
Metal Injection: I went and looked up the microforms as well because I wasn’t sure exactly who René Chopin was, and I didn’t know of his work. It ultimately pairs really well with your music though! So, did the discovery of Chopin’s poem change the direction of the album a lot? I’m guessing it may have influenced the album title, but did it change the art direction at all?
Blanc Feu: The title of the poem was a natural winner for the album title, yes, but it did not change the direction of our songwriting. For the artwork, not much changed since there are a couple of pictures we took while hiking. By the way, the cover painting was discovered by surprise too.
Metal Injection: Shifting gears to this track we’re premiering, “Le Feu Secret”. Does it share any particular literary ties like the album title or the subsequent title tracks?
Blanc Feu: My approach to writing is not very traditional, so I did not try to imitate the style of René Chopin or well-known Québec writers like Émile Nelligan and Félix-Antoine Savard. What I feel is the most important is to create a dream-like but still sensory experience, very introspective. In that, I got inspiration from the above mentioned and others like Hubert Aquin, Andrée A. Michaud, and Fernand Ouellette.
The thing is, those are not literally Paysages polaires (polar landscapes). They represent the travels within oneself, through hostile yet intimate territories, as well as epic journeys through the snow of our homeland.
"Le feu secret," being the first track of the album, is set in the wilderness closest to us: the boreal forest, the starting point of our quest for the unknown. We are walking towards the icy pole, untouched lands full of mystery and dread, to witness the midnight sun.
Metal Injection: I see, so these polar landscapes or the boreal forest in “Le feu secret” are more of a metaphor for personal quests. So in this case, what are these untouched lands or midnight sun in these personal or internal journeys?
Blanc Feu: My usual answer to this is that it lies within the reader. I don’t write to tell people what to do or how to feel, I just try to describe as best as possible what my senses and dreams give me. That could also be what resonates in me when I’m in contact with other works of art, say movies or literature. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I wrote the first draft of "Le feu secret" after I watched "Dersu Uzala" by Akira Kurosawa.
If you want a personal insight into those untouched lands, I can only tell that it’s a strong desire to be far away from mankind and civilization. Then, the midnight sun is an everlasting fire, but it also implies its opposite, the great Void. Those who have faced it know.
Le firmament arctique étoile sa coupole
Le vent glacé des nuits haleine irrégulier
Et fait étinceler tous les astres du Pole
Le Cygne crucial, la Chèvre, le Bélier.
Rideau de gaze en sa transparence hyaline.
Les écharpes de l'air flottent dans les lointains.
Comme un disque argenté, la Lune cristalline
Plonge dans l'Océan ses deux grands veux éteints.
Telle que nous la montre, étrange architecture
De neige et de glaçons étagés par degrés
Sur la page de pulpe ou sur la couverture,
Le dessin suggetif des livres illustrés