Black Bile vomits its debut album.
Formed in 2017 in France by Romane (vocals) and Nicolas (bass), quickly joined by Antoine (guitar) then Emerick (drums), the band released their first EP in 2018. Rémy (guitar) eventually joins them to add the finishing touches to L’Oratoire, their debut album, released in 2023 in collaboration with Frozen Records and Code Records.
In Procession gets off to a slow start, revealing a few melodious soaring notes first before letting bass and then vocals enter the scene to lead us into Bereavement, where the musicians unleash a veritable wave of visceral strength, slowing down to become majestic. The clear vocals and choruses hypnotize us before exploding into banshee screams, barely restrained by a softer break, but sometimes strengthened by the more massive riffs. The wave of quietness is short-lived, obliterated by the final oppression before Ephialtes takes us under its spell with dissonant tones that constantly feed and imprison the contrast between haunting slowness and dark elements. Although disturbing, the final remains quite soothing, followed by L’Oratoire, the eponymous track, and its airy introduction joined by clean vocals softening it even when saturation resurfaces before allowing itself to be corrupted. The following track, Antephialtes, reminds us of one of the previous track’s duality, coupling dark touches with a heavy slowness that suddenly explodes before falling back into quietude. It ignites again, even adopting vivid Black Metal influences to complete the fascinating mix that carries us to a perfectly managed final flight before A Lament, the final track, ventures into the darkest territories of this devastated landscape. It’s no surprise to find torrents of raw fury between the calm but overwhelming passages that inevitably lead us to the end of the album, and complete silence.
Between chaos and tranquility, Black Bile finds its playground. Doom’s slowness, Post-Metal’s oppression and Black Metal’s intense touches make L’Oratoire the perfect sound to let time wash over you, or simply to make your darkest thoughts sink in.
A few questions for Nicolas, bass player of Doom/Post-Metal band Black Bile.
Hello, and thank you for your time! How could you introduce the band Black Bile without using the usual labels of musical styles, such as « Doom » or « Post-Metal »?
Nicolas (bass): The most difficult question first! We’ve never really been able to define what we do in terms of style. It was people we met along the way who did it for us, if you want to put it that way. If we were to free ourselves from these labels, we could say that Black Bile is an introspective, tormented, poetic, even romantic project.
Your debut album, L’Oratoire, is due for release in a few months. Have you had any feedback on it yet?
Nicolas: We’re all very impatient, we can’t wait to be able to share it with as many people as possible. We’ve already had some very positive feedback from people we sent the album to when we were looking for a label. And the simple fact that people like Frozen Records and Code Records like it enough to want to release it is the most positive feedback we could have hoped for.
How would you sum up L’Oratoire in three words?
Nicolas: Contemplation, introspection, melancholy…
L’Oratoire comes out three years after your first EP, The Substance. What were the main changes or evolutions in your creative process?
Nicolas: We’re the kind of people who take our time, not least because we all compose together in rehearsal, so the process has stretched out a lot. Ideally, we get together once a week, each of us contributing ideas that we then try out, and we build up our songs bit by bit. As a result, several rehearsals could go by without any progress being made, and then the next rehearsal, everything would be unblocked. The creative process remained basically the same as for the EP. The only difference is that this time we went for several pre-production sessions with Ben from B-Blast Records, who recorded and mixed the album. This allowed us to step back and try out new things. And Ben was involved right from the start of the process, so he was able to follow the evolution and advise us, which wasn’t the case for the EP where we arrived at his place with the tracks almost finished.
What’s the concept behind this album? The name of the album is in French, but the tracks are in English. Why did you choose to use French for the title?
Nicolas: The name of the album quickly became part of the composition process, and guided it in a way. We had just released the video for the track Black River, which is on the EP, directed by our friend Hugo Le Beller, who also signs the two album videos. The clip was shot in a place called… « L’Oratoire ». It’s really a unique place, a piece of forest that was once used as a place of worship. There are dolmens, as well as almost abandoned places of prayer and meditation. A Stations of the Cross has even been reproduced here. There’s a very special atmosphere here. Romane (vocals) lived right next door and spent a lot of time there for inspiration. So we saw a certain symbolism, like the starting point of the project. For the name of our first album, it sounded good. And then, by definition, an oratory is a place of meditation. Beyond any dogma or cult, it is often a place of remembrance in the broadest sense. As our music has always been personal and introspective, we imagined that the album could be the oratory of any listener.
Your third track is called Ephialtes, which I think echoes a name of Greek origin, and the fifth Antephialtes, which I think is the opposite. Could you explain the link between these two tracks?
Nicolas: These two tracks are indeed linked. They’re both inspired by the theme of sleep paralysis, and the hallucinations or nightmares associated with it. This phenomenon was called « ephialtes » in ancient Greece. The prefix « ant » for Antephialtes is a clever way of describing a state or situation that precedes paralysis, but is certainly not « grammatically » correct. Touching on the theme of onirism and nightmares then allows a certain freedom in the writing. Romane has always taken an approach that could almost be called surrealistic, even if that’s a big word, in the way she writes.
I know it’s a tough question, but do you have a favorite track on this album? Or the one that seemed the most natural to compose?
Nicolas: We all agree that Antephialtes has something special. Probably because it’s the most emotionally charged. It has a more pronounced melancholy. And we really enjoy playing it.
The band collaborated with Duality Records for the physical release of the EP, and this time with Frozen Records and Code Records for the release of the album. How did these collaborations go?
Nicolas: We had released the EP independently, digitally and on CD. Several months later, we received a message from Pierre and Damien of Duality who had discovered us on Bandcamp. They were very enthusiastic about the project and suggested we release the EP in cassette format. They make the cassettes themselves, and we liked the DIY approach. And it went so well that we released a vinyl pressing of the EP with them, which was a first for them as well as for us. It was a pleasure to work with them, they’re real enthusiasts who give their all for the artists they work with. For the album, it was a matter of meeting new people. We’d been following Frozen for some time, and Nico had already been to the shop (they have a record shop/tattoo parlour). Before coming for a meeting, he sent them the album, met Paul and Eddy, and that was that. At the same time, we’ve known Mik and his band Death Engine for a while, because we’re from the same area. When he started setting up Code Records, we thought it made sense for a local label to be involved in this release, especially as we gravitate towards the same aesthetics. The idea of co-production was quickly decided and we moved forward. The collaboration is going really well. Paul, Eddy and Mik are very committed and give us the benefit of their experience and invaluable advice. We’re very proud to be releasing the album with them.
Has having the support of a label changed your approach to your work?
Nicolas: Definitely. You could say that the simple fact of wanting to release the album with a label and do things right has already structured the way we work. Not on an artistic level, but on an « administrative » level, if you can call it that. We had no deals and no prospects when we started recording. So we had to start canvassing, once we had the finished album in hand. That taught us how to present our project properly. Then, once we’d found the deal with Frozen and Code, we learned a lot too. There were a lot of things we hadn’t thought about or taken seriously enough until then that we discovered: contracting, press relations, etc…
Do you already have plans for the future of Black Bile? Although it’s not your first concert, how do you feel about your release party on October 25th?
Nicolas: In terms of dates, we have two planned at the moment. Friday October 13 (the day of the album’s release) at the MaMA Festival, at the Backstage BTM in Paris. And our release party on Wednesday October 25 at Le Ferrailleur, organized by Frozen, with Nature Morte and Montagne. We see this release party as a real achievement. We can’t wait. We’re counting on the official release of the album and these two concerts to help us land some great dates in 2024. We’ve also got some video projects, and we’re just starting to think about what the follow-up to L’Oratoire might be.
The band generally presents itself as « Doom/Post-Metal », but what are your influences, and how do you manage the balance between all those of each member?
Nicolas: We all have slightly different influences and preferences, but we all share a common base. We all like bands like Chelsea Wolfe, Hangman’s Chair, Amenra, Cult of Luna… We also love Post-Punk. Some of us are also big fans of Grunge, Industrial or Shoegaze, but overall, there’s no big dissension. The way we work and compose in rehearsal allows everyone to express themselves, and we’re all in sync when it comes to the artistic direction of the project. Our personalities are pretty easygoing, and we all take a back seat to the group.
Are there any musicians or artists you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
Nicolas: That’s a very good question. We’ve never really thought about it. Not in the sense of featuring, but to be able one day to record with Tim de Gieter (Amenra, Doodseskader) from Much Luv Studio, who mastered the EP and album, would be great!
Do you feel that creating the album has helped you improve as musicians?
Nicolas: Definitely. For a start, we tried out techniques that weren’t present on the EP. Romane included scream in her vocals, and on the instrumental side, blast beats made their appearance, for example. Taking our time and working in pre-production sessions enabled us to improve our songwriting too.
Which bands would you dream of playing with? I’ll let you imagine a date with Black Bile as opener, and three other bands.
Nicolas: We’ve already mentioned them, but a set with Chelsea Wolfe, Amenra and Cult of Luna would be exceptional.