Baudelaire, Marquis de Sade, the guillotine... before the "cheese-eating surrender-monkey" stereotype, France had quite a legacy of morbidity, debauchery and violence going for it. Eclectic, conceptual, and fiercely independent of asinine scene politics, this depraved troupe seems to be the sonic manifestation of the liberation acquired through exalting pleasure and freedom above morality, law, and even cheese as the most noble human principles.
Most of this album's critics believe this album sees Peste Noire attempting to understate their pop appeal, which isn't quite the case. True, you won't find many spontaneous tribal jams, organ & accordion passages, mandolin lead melodies, or extended acoustic rock in ‘Folkfuck Folie’ -- not because the band is tapped of creativity, but because they simply no longer need these things. I won't deny those elements contributed to what made ‘La Sanie des siècles - Panégyrique de la dégénérescence’ such a gorgeous album, but all those clean melodic leads and waltzy rhythms are now points of interactive centrality in an overall much riffier, more structurally substantial album, rather than just superficial ornaments intended to differentiate the music from the rest of the pack. ‘Folkfuck Folie’'s element of concision is especially visible in its instrumental interaction. Each musician is obviously quite skilled with their respective instrument, from Indria and his sinewy bass lines to the Famine's signature acerbic fretboard surgery, but they manage to avoid collapsing into an impotent virtuoso circlejerk by displaying a lucid attention to thematic and conceptual development as well as detail.
‘Folkfuck Folie’ isn't the maddeningly catchy endeavor ‘La Sanie des siècles…’ was, but still, part of why it's so good is because Peste Noire are not attempting to camouflage their undeniable pop sensibility. In fact, they laugh in the face of the morose posturing of the orthodox Satanist bands populating their country with an emphasis on melodic development that screams triumph and hedonistic rapture, from the blissed out woodwind melody in the title track, to the resurfacing dual-guitar harmony at the 2:25 and 4:15 marks in the song La Fin Del Secie, in which one guitar churns out a propulsive indie rock lick as the contrapuntal melody flourishes astronomically with decadent flamenco touches. Sure, this is black metal, complete with agonized yowling and lyrics about AIDS, but the music is jaunty and, at times, almost fun -- like a parade of escaped inmates kicking hobos and stabbing babies in carriages with unwholesome looking needles found in dumpsters. Misery just happens to be part of ‘Folkfuck Folie’'s dramatis personæ, and you know how misery feels about company.
‘Folkfuck Folie’ has been criticized for its somewhat dry vocal performance. While the former nails-on-chalk board potency of Famine's death rasps is for the most part absent, he compensates with a new vocal awareness of what's actually going on in the songs; many parts in this album are probably the closest Famine will ever come to "singing," although I use that term extremely loosely here. But unfortunately, Peste Noire also disregard the stigma regarding female vocals in black metal with guest vocals by Audrey Sylvain (in the songs Condamné à la Pondaison (Légende Funèbre) and Amour ne m'amoit ne je li), who doesn't do much but croon along atonally. Although her presence isn't too distracting, it feels as though aside from a nod towards Neige's Alcest project, Peste Noire included her vocals simply in order to capitalize on the element of "prettiness" into which their delicate balance of metal, rock and waltzy folk often wanders.
Also worth mentioning is the song La Césarienne, the only Peste Noire song to date written by Neige as opposed to Famine. It suits the riff-oriented nature of ‘Folkfuck Folie’ rather well with some crunchy thrash scales that fall apart at the song's zenith of momentum, the scattered pieces of which smolder into noxious Mayhemic dissonance. Not bad for a guy who writes shoegazey post-punk. The album also includes the song Paysage Mauvais from their recent split with Horna, a mesh of knotty thrashing, baroque melodicism, and perverse vocal theatrics draped over a bleating chorus of owls and frogs. What the fuck? So awesome.
‘Folkfuck Folie’ is both one step backwards and one step forward from ‘La Sanie des siècles - Panégyrique de la dégénérescence’, which is still better than most black metal bands can ever hope to touch upon. If it has one major flaw, it's its almost aristocratic lack of ambition, as evidenced by how half the album consists of re-interpreted tracks from the ‘Lorraine’ rehearsal. However, Peste Noire still maintain their position of one of the most innovative modern black metal names in France, even surpassing Antaeus and the flakey mathematical dabbling of the zealots in Deathspell Omega. But one last thing: what the hell is a folkfuck?