Live Report – French Black Metal – SVART CROWN and REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER in Montbéliard, France, 04/10/2020

Live Report – French Black Metal – SVART CROWN and REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER in Montbéliard, France, 04/10/2020

Artwork by Pierre Berthier

I departed early today to reach Montbéliard, a small town far from my home base, Dijon. But both are in the same region, so let’s get these two hours done. I have been invited to the concert by Magna Vox, an association from Dijon who participated in this concert’s organization. It is included in their annual event “Le Franc-Tamponnage”, which aims at playing savage music in unusual places.

As every musical event this year, their festival was shrunk to only three concerts in the region, the first today in Montbéliard and two others later in November. Those three events showcase one well known band from Nantes, France: REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER, French Post-Black Metal, named after the movie of the same name by Jacques Audiard (See How They Fall in English, if you’re ever interested).

I arrived in Montbéliard and strolled down a little through the city center until I eventually reach the venue in which the concert was held. I did mention “unusual places” earlier. Indeed, this concert was being held in a 19th century Italian-style theater. It has a very high ceiling, a big stage, and chairs all over on three separate floors, from which you can behold perfectly the scene right in front of you.
View from the stage (photo source:

First thing one may notice upon entering, is that fog has already been doused all over the room, giving right from the start a hint of the ritualistic aura that black metal concerts often hold. I move forward to the first row and sit down until the start of the set of the band opening for REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER: French black/death veterans SVART CROWN.

SVART CROWN is not a band I know very well. I’ve listened to their album Abreaction, released in 2017 and more recently, I’ve tried my ear on their latest effort, Wolves Amongst the Ashes. To be honest, while I’ve liked better their new album, I’m not a big fan of their studio sound. They have a lot of midtempo, nearly doomy moments, that to me feel a little weak and out of place. Maybe it’s because I’m stupid, but I also feel like it lacks some blast beats. It has many, often, but the band gives a lot of space to its midtempo sections.

While I may not enjoy the band in studio version, live it was great! They had a better balance (in my opinion) between slow and fats sections, and their slower parts were mastered perfectly and sounded way better live than studio, giving all the crushing impact they deserve to the listener. I was pleasantly surprised by these doomy parts, because there they felt genuine, so this band is definitely one you want to see live. Band members had a great synergy, both guitarists sing deep growls at the same and on their own, while the bassist accompanies them from time to time. Their drummer was a marvel to look at play, very intense and diverse, thanks to all the different tempos with which the band plays.

After one hour of SVART CROWN, we are invited to leave the room so they can change the set. The grey engraving-styled backdrop of SC is taken down to quietly place all the stuffthat RLHT are going to use. After some time, we come back to discover a stage filled with burning incense, candelabra lit up at every corner and on the front, and a backdrop of a very simple yet evocative design, having lightning falling down, in greyish colors, similar to what you may see on the cover of their new album, Ascension, released earlier this year.

I had wanted to see RLHT live for a while now. I have discovered them through their previous album, Exile, released in 2015. That makes a total of three albums for the band, and while their first self-titled release was very much indulging in sludge metal with blackened vocals and some blackened guitar parts, with their two next albums, they have completely digested the identity and dogmas of black metal and have mastered its characteristics, both visually and sonically.

Four men with darkened eyes and pale faces, as often in this genre, enter the incensed and dimly lit stage and start playing their introduction. I notice right on that the sound quality is just perfect. Then the singer comes in, and I am instantly struck by his voice, which resonates deeply throughout the whole theater. He has great presence and charisma and masters his movements perfectly. The band members actually do not move much, yet every time they do it’s to great artistic effect, in a very controlled yet fluid manner. The singer moves his hands religiously, in a sermon-like manner and sometimes crouches as if to emphasize the Fall which they celebrate throughout their music. The depth of his voice is accentuated by a very melancholic style that feels nearly like what you may hear in depressive black metal.

The lights of the show mainly come from the ground, leaving musicians partially in the shadows. They mainly used blue and red lights, not very strong and warm, that further reinforces the dim atmosphere already established.

Here is the setlist that they played tonight (I feel like I miss a song though):

  1. L’Ascension
  2. A New Order
  3. The Renegade Son
  4. A Sheep Among the Wolves
  5. The Incandescent March
  6. The Crowning
  7. Au Bord du Gouffre

They truly are masters of their craft, and the ritualistic approach of their music, which is a frequent component of black metal, even in its more modern forms, is emphasized by the building in which we were.

One may not think of ever going to a black metal in a historical building such as Montbéliard’s theater, and yet it is a perfect setting for music such as black metal. Recently, polish death/black metal band BEHEMOTH played in a church in their home country for a live-streamed show. Many have praised this concept because of the blasphemy it represents, inverted crosses and a ritual through a music often associated with Satan. I think that fans may miss the point. There is more to say about such events.

A theater is not entirely different from a church, as even if it is not the house of God, it is home to many classical pieces being represented, music and plays that are very different from black metal. Our classical literary and musical legacies are full of religious references, and the theater is, like the church, a very quiet place in which the performance is being witnessed at like a preaching, in great silence, without movement (whereas extreme metal concerts are associated with headbanging, moshing and related stuff).

The passion, time and dedication that people put into black metal is not so different than the one that believers put in their faith. The vocabulary found there has often religious connotations (mass, sermon, ritual), and the darkness of black metal is not so different from the fear of God, or of the Devil, in which religious texts show all the negativity they could ever create. Black metal isn’t funny, just like these texts. And lyrically, RLHT is right on point. It is about failure, the Fall, and divine punishment. Believers may seek salvation and respite from the fear of God through preaching in a church, and black metal fans could just as well find their salvation in the cathartic destructivity of their favorite genre, which is then followed in a similar religious manner. As Gregorian chants resonated through the walls of every sacred home and every theater of the world, whether for artistic or religious purposes, because men built the buildings in which these performances were held with a sacred vision befitting of His Holiness. Then why wouldn’t black metal be the perfect contemporary music for such edifices?

Black metal fans are no different from religious fanatics. They put their heart, flesh and bone into the music, and come to their black masses to transcend apart of their living vessel of flesh. Black metal can resonate in its full soulfulness only in a place that is sacred, old, and that shines with this cultural legacy that made ancient architecture so special.

So, in fact, promoting desecration in those places where no one would have ever dared to play black metal, is simplistic. While it is true that black metal often has an anti-systemic and anti-religious message, and has built its roots upon that idea of blasphemy, it is in the end only another way of believing, which was built off of religion itself. Isn’t Satan just the other side of the coin? I believe that these historical buildings which behold the soul of God are actually the best places to conduct a ritualistic black metal concert because they epitomize the feeling that this black metal following has become like a religion. Needed to feel better and to be able to move forward in this decaying world, even if this music maintains us only through its negativity. A religion which points towards the fact that there is none. As Nietzsche wrote, “God is dead”. But still we need ways to move on with this life.

My thinking has gone places. My apologies. Anyway, I meant to say that the concert was amazing, and you should go see RLHT live whenever they come close to your place. They will play in Dijon, my home, on November 27. Be there. And on the 28th in Macon, further South in Burgundy. The band is playing a bunch of other shows in France throughout the end of 2020 (if all goes well) and one show in Berlin, Germany, on December 10. Check dates below:

If you like their music, go check their label, SEASON OF MIST.


Follow SVART CROWN on Facebook

See you some other day for a new text. I’m sorry if this one feels a little dense, my thoughts have gone in every direction while writing it.


I love black metal, and I love fish. That may seem unrelated to music, but you may sooner or later understand that there's a link between the two. I will write on Skull News review articles and other stuff, I hope you'll enjoy them. And by the way, I'm French !

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