6th February 2016 – various labels
01. The Clouds
02. A Host Of Sparrows
03. The Mountains
04. For All That Is Growing
05. Have I Become Hell
06. Light Conqueror
07. Blood Vessels
08. In Search Of Substance
For a style so rooted in naked aggression, there’s a remarkable amount of diversity in hardcore. Perhaps the most straightforward, American hardcore is often sweaty and muscular, executed against imagery of writhing moshpits and snarling faces. By contrast, European efforts are almost elegant; more inclined to emote than their cohorts across the Atlantic. Ironic, then, that the masters of the style Danish newcomers Église affect are from the States. Metallic hardcore heavyweights Converge are an obvious touching point for the Copenhagen quartet’s self-titled debut, but although there’s much to enjoy here for fans of the legendary Salemites, this is no rip-off: instead, the Danes have crafted their own take on the sound; a bleak, inhospitable landscape in keeping with their inclement Scandinavian surroundings.
They’re certainly keen to grab your attention immediately, unleashing a pair of tumultuous tracks packed with aggression right out of the gate, “A Host Of Sparrows” in particular is more discordant than having your backside mounted on the business end of a halberd; even its outro, positively dripping with feedback under an insistent china beat, sneers its discontent in every direction. The record is jarring throughout in fact, and this dissonance really makes Église stand out from its contemporaries, despite a concise twenty-four minute run-time; the four-piece make full use of both their considerable and cacophonous talents, but they also know when to make space for one another, dropping off whilst their bandmates take the lead and really allowing each other to go full bore with their individual disharmonious talents. This is particularly true of Lukas Frederiksen, who frequently steps into the background to make his guitar and amp squeal and hiss at each other like a pair of cantakerous cats, whilst Mathias Thevik Ernst articulates the fuck out of his drumkit with an eloquence rarely heard in hardcore.
Half-way Hercules “Have I Become Hell” is without a doubt the album’s keystone, hammering home every positive aspect of Église in exactly six minutes. It’s also the epicentre of Converge worship, espousing their very essence in a way that is both reverent and referential – but they just do it so well. From Martin Nielskov‘s disparate, rasping barks, to Frederiksen’s ugly, malevolent chords, everything builds and complements the harrowing ambience perfectly. The bass is loud and ominous, with Lars Mårtensson winding up and down the neck, then driving along underneath the vocals and Ernst’s wonderful accenting drums in a particularly distinguished mid-song section. Wonderful.
In fact, the atmosphere is the other of Église‘s real strengths. With a thermostat set at just above freezing for the duration, it’s a record both encrusted with that crunchy early morning frost, but also frantically and tenaciously fighting to keep itself warm; it’s your granddad going out for the morning paper and refusing to wear a coat because he’s hard as nails.
The record, ultimately, is charming – if you can call it something so evocative of warmth – because of its biting, wintry flavour, rather than in spite of it. The almost physical chill, paired with an aural dissonance and a thoroughly belligerent attitude, makes Église an absolutely essential acquisition.