Ars Moriendi’s History-Rich Black Metal Embraces the Dark
Metal artists regularly draw on history in the service of the show. Most metalheads are nerds Something, and their love for their muses, historical or not, is contagious. Nobody would sing, for example, the charge of the light brigade if they weren’t completely fascinated by it. Their adoration instills an emotional shift in which one falls in love with Cthulhu, say, if only because their favorite band makes Cthulhu cool.
Taking this into account, Ars Moriendithe third album of sepelitur hallelujah turns the arcane story into vogue. It tells the story of bloodthirsty French pirate François l’Olonnais and his eventual demise in the jaws of a cannibalistic tribe. It’s too dramatic as hell, an attribute Ars Moriendi further embellished on his 2021 record The unreasonable silence of the sky. The Arsonist is the only member of the French team and graciously spoke to us about how his love of obscure French history, family musical lineage and cinematic tastes play into his craft.
The Arsonist created Ars Moriendi in the early 2000s as an instrumental dungeon synthesizer side project for his then current band Solipsis. After that band disbanded, he focused on Ars Moriendi, evolving first by adding elements like vocals, horns, and a heavier emphasis on black metal, then refining his songwriting process. He says: “I now spend a lot more time on my compositions than when I was doing demos (2001-2007) where I recorded a lot. I pay much more attention to detail now, to sequences, to overall structure, to arrangements… It seems to me like a logical evolution for a musician, we are becoming more and more demanding and those who listen are more and more demanding also.”
His last album The unreasonable silence of the sky is a noble drama that combines black metal, ambient, spoken word, electronic, jazz and trip-hop. Given Ars Moriendi’s historical base, their sonic palette can seem disconcerting. The Arsonist even wonders how his musical and historical interests interact. “I often wonder… Is it relevant to add an electronic effect in this song about the life of monks in a monastery in the 15th century? The answer is only a question of feeling. Do I I think it’s good? Does electro detract from the historical atmosphere I want? If my own answer is “no”, I can use it.”
These elegant attributes match the pompous nature of his subjects. Besides pirates and cannibals, Ars Moriendi also writes about the dark history of altar boys in the North of France in the 16th century (L’Incendiaire devoted his university thesis to this subject), the approval of the modernist drink of Charles Baudelaire “Get drunk” and the life of the fifteenth-century brother Girolamo Savonarola. He combs through the deep cuts in history. Debauchery and religiosity go together, galvanizing across pastures less on the rigid form and more on the narrative.
Perhaps the most revealing insight into Ars Moriendi’s craft is his fascination with Mamoru Oshii. The Japanese director is notable for challenging conventional storytelling practices. His approach can be summed up by the mantra that his style is substance, favoring world-building and thematic resonance over plot. Oshii plays it fast and free with its source material. He transforms characters into metaphors, transforming them into sensitive issues that conflict with his assembled worlds. watch philosophy ghost in the shell (which you should have now) or the unpredictable Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (which is much better than Inception) for reference.
The influence of Oshii can be seen in the music of Ars Moriendi. The Arsonist admits to rising directly from Oshii. “I remember using samples taken from Avalon on one of the first demos of Ars Moriendi and having raised several times philosophical questions (for example on the album From the depths of a being and the title “Ghost”).” He then adds: “I was very impressed by the film Avalonby both ghost in the shell films, and his way of filming, of bringing us back through his long sequence shots to the feelings of his characters, their loneliness, their nostalgia, their metaphysical questioning.”
The director’s touch permeates the rhythm of the group. Ars Moriendi takes a similar approach to Oshii in which characters and moods are instruments of dynamic sagas, propelling them through multiple phases, traversing disparate genres and jumping between dots like a lucid dreamer.
The Arsonist’s earlier comments on the listener’s request prompt a question; if people demand more from music, who exactly demands gritty black metal with royal flourishes that would make the Knights of the Round Table blush? It is a niche market and Ars Moriendi does not capitulate to a wider audience. The Incendiary favors epics like “A nothingness with regard to infinity” or sepelitur hallelujahIt’s “Ecce homo”. Each has an idiosyncratic aspect, like the first’s trip-hop sequences or the second’s brass interlude, stemming from The Arsonist’s upbringing and academic interests. He talks about the intersection between jazz and his family. “Regarding the jazz influence: it’s a little different, the origin is rather family since my father is a trumpeter and passionate about jazz and jazz-rock. He also participated, with his saxophonist brother, in several recordings, on the albums sepelitur hallelujah and on The Solitude of the Pious Villain.”
However, the particularity of Ars Moriendi wants an audience to exist. It may seem like you need a bachelor’s degree in French history to fully grasp the relevance of, say, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s Sabat Mater. This could be a potential barrier to entry for some regarding Ars Moriendi. It’s not so much a deal-breaker as a call to action. The opulent music of the arsonist demands study. He fosters curiosity about opaque topics in a way no one could imagine, but strikes an apparent chord after the fact. The arsonist’s curiosity connects the pieces together. As he says, “I would be tempted to answer that the subject that connects everything is me; my questioning about life, human beings and everything that surrounds us and that I approach directly or through characters with a tragic destiny.”
The unreasonable silence of the sky published on September 24, 2021 via archaic sound.