Somewhat earlier this year I was pleasantly surprised by the French band ACOD with their musical presentation of what I ultimately described as a much heavier and more Black Metal version of modern Dark Tranquillity. It turns out that two out of three members of that band pulled off another surprise when I found out they together make up the duo of Beyond The Permafrost. Admittedly most of the surprise can be attributed to my flawed association of the term permafrost (soil, rock or sediment that is frozen for more than two consecutive years) with a band from Russia or Ukraine, and the association with a French band simply hadn’t crossed my mind.
Musically though, Beyond the Permafrost does have a lot more connection to their home country than ACOD. Where the latter blends Swedish Death Metal with Black Metal, Beyond the Permafrost is strictly a Black Metal act, and one that focusses on the early 90’s second wave of Black Metal. The most pronounced influences are those from the French soil, but there certainly is a heavy dose of the Norwegian likes of Burzum, Mayhem, Satyricon and Ulver to be found on their debut full-length ‘Fallen from the Throne’ as well. Much of the base of the music is raw tremolo picking with a rather straightforward approach and a decent variation in pace. In a song like ‘A New Astral Voyage’ there is a degree of a militant character, with slightly atonal riffs and a clearly audible bass complimenting the croaking vocals. But there is more to the formula, as there is a certain epic degree to the music that strongly resembles these early Black Metal days. In ‘The Fiery Lustral Doors’ this manifests itself in background choirs or keys and a melodic undertone, while ‘Call of the Darkest Past’ is almost Pagan in nature. The climax of the album however is ‘A Tragic End under a Majestic Frost’, where the marriage of French and Norwegian Black Metal is best balanced and everything comes together, including the highlight in lunacy of the vocals.
All in all, ‘Fallen from the Throne’ is a more than solid debut and more importantly, a pleasant record to listen to. It’s not necessarily filled with the greatest hooks or catchy riffs and it may be a tad repetitive at times, but the way it balances the rawness and atmosphere of the French and Norwegian Black metal scenes of the early 90’s is certainly commendable.