Review by: Meriel Longmore
Review score: 4/5
BONJOUR TRISTESSE was created by sole-member Nathanael in 2009; “Par un Sourire” is the first full-length album from the band. The band name “Bonjour Tristesse” translates to “Welcome Sadness” & is inspired by the 1954 book written by French author Francoise Sagan. Bearing in mind this carefully considered moniker, it comes as no surprise that the music itself is of the most atmospheric and emotional variety of Black Metal.
The initial comparison would be to BURZUM due to the intense and dramatically screamed vocals, however here the similarity ends as the compositions themselves have a far more modern edge. The album itself combines two main contrasting themes; as you would expect there are elements of depression, negativity, loneliness, fear, sadness, alienation. However, there is also an underlying element of hope, personal strength, and confidence that counteracts these dark emotional subjects. Therefore, “Par un Sourire” isn’t one of those albums that will drain all colour and life from everything in the way that the most vehement of Suicidal Black Metal bands tend to; it has a multi-dimensional approach that inspires thought rather than just simply a sense of crushing emptiness. BONJOUR TRISTESSE has more in common with bands such as AUSTERE, ISOLATION, HYPOTHERMIA, WIGRID, AMESOEURS, ANWECH and LIFELOVER for example. There is of course a strong depressive theme present throughout the release, but it is approached from a different angle that relies more upon the re-telling of a story or the communication of ideas as opposed to overt shock tactics used to appeal to the basic human need for negation.
Considering that this is a CD-R demo release, it has a clear and professional sound throughout. The guitar arrangements are atmospheric, with a warm clean tone. The guitars are a similar tone to LIFELOVER or later SHINING whereby there is more focus on the actual songwriting as opposed to murky distortion, and this is no disadvantage as BONJOUR TRISTESSE are skilled at creating narrative through dark passages and melodies. There is also the inclusion of samples that adds to the overall effect of the release, featuring the voice of a depressed, distressed girl speaking in German. BONJOUR TRISTESSE also make good use of double bass drums, which are successful at adding character to the release and also a slightly upbeat, groovy quality that contrasts nicely to the suicidal passages to be heard throughout. “Par un Sourire” has a dualistic quality that holds the attention consistently and always offers interesting stylistic twists and carefully constructed cathartic atmospheres. BONJOUR TRISTESSE have obviously put a great deal of thought and skill into “Par un Sourire” and the rewards are most certainly reaped in this release; the term “relief through release” is an ideal description and well worth experiencing for yourself.