Of Baudelaire and Broken Crowns – a review of Décembre Noir’s “Pale Serenades”

Author Silvia Tortiglione - 24.11.2022

We must immediately point out that we are not dealing with the purest death and doom metal, but with a snowy version of these genres. Never was a title more appropriate. “Pale Serenades” – melodic songs, of clear and decadent voices, or to put it in the French language so dear to the Thuringian band, an exquisitely Baudelarian musical toll. “Pale Serenades” is this: a composition of poetry and longing, a reworking of the history of Décembre Noir in a meditative key. In fact, the four tracks that make up the album are taken from the group’s chronology: “The Renaissance of Hope” (2020), “Autumn Kings” (2018), “Forsaken Earth” (2016), and “A Discouraged Believer” (2014).

This musical spleen begins with “A Swan Lake Full of Tears” (feat. Mick Moss of Antimatter), a revival of the track from the latest “The Renaissance of Hope”. We are welcomed by an acoustic guitar that seems made of water and tears, in a cadenced tone of languor, which makes the marriage between love and death sensorial, as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky had already done with the famous ballet.

Anyone in life will have faced the claustrophobic feeling of endless falling. An entire kingdom in one song: this is “Barricades” with the collaboration of Aaron Stainthorpe of My Dying Bride, who manages to give his best on a restrained and intimate tone. Piano, cello, and a voice that turns two single instruments into a full orchestra. Again, “Pale Serenades” is able to open up all the chasms of human tragedy.

“Small.Town.Depression”, featuring Michelle Darkness (End of Green, Bury Me Deep), breaks the shadows with an electronic interval, very close to voluntary hallucination. The bit shakes the gloom, the bit is made up of gloom: a game of chases and oblations which, although it moves away from the leading genre of Décembre Noir, is nonetheless indispensable.

“The Forsaken Earth” (feat. Matthew K. Heafy from Trivium) concludes the EP and does this in the most aggressive way. A sudden resurgence, a storm of riffs, and Matthew’s voice that keeps on destroying with incredible melancholy. Perhaps the sharpest moment of “Pale Serenades”, which brings Décember Noir back to their original power.

“Pale Serenades” succeeds where many fail. It keeps the melancholy of the melodic moments without sacrificing the darkness of destiny. The Ep attacks and repents, prays and kills. A small jewel that goes beyond the simple musical experiment and assumes the role of poetry in music, or music in poetry.