Review 2090 : Salò – L’Appel du Néant – English

Salò‘s hatred hasn’t dried up.

A direct follow-up to their debut album, released in 2021, the Normandy-based band comprising HCT (bass/vocals), AVS (guitar) and DLE (samples/keyboards), helped by Thomas Njord (drums, Venefixion, Ende), are about to vomit out their second album, L’Appel du Néant, on Source Atone Records.

The band’s first track, Un Homme ça ne s’empêche, begins with a series of relatively disturbing samples, which combine effective riffs, strange effects and hoarse screams to create a veritable musical apocalypse. The rhythm is regularly disturbed by eruptions of fury before a « final quietude » that leads us to Le Goût du Sang, the next track, and its initially very raw approach, then finally overshadowed by the various cold, heady sound additions. The sound also becomes heavier towards the end, and then J’Affronte la Mort takes over, welcoming Diego Janson from Karras to strengthen the hateful vocal assault, while the rhythmics stomp us with disgust. The band follow up with Est-ce là mon Avenir, which alternates frenetic blast phases with much slower but equally oppressive passages as the vocalist unleashes his fury, then luminous keyboards make their appearance before rage literally ignites on Il Faut qu’ils Crèvent, the next track. Crust roots are exploited to the full on this short composition, then it’s with a more ethereal approach that the musicians attack Liberté Surannée, before returning to violence, only soothed at times by sampled vocals. The band collaborates with Breton group Mütterlein to exploit their impressive, airy Industrial influences on the haunting visceral Et Pourtant J’Essaie, but also the wilder, high-contrast La Cendre et le Sang, which couples the furious basis with dissonant, intimidating touches.

Salò‘s violence is only matched by the subjects it tackles. L’Appel du Néant will shock, but it also denounces through its hateful, devastating sounds, skilfully recreating the chaos it evokes.


Version Française ?

A few questions to HCT and DLE, respectively bassist/vocalist and keyboardist/sampler with the band Salò.

Hello, and thank you for your time! Could you quickly introduce the band Salò for those who don’t know you yet, without using the usual style labels?
HCT (bass/vocals): Salò is the fusion of cold, uncomfortable music and cinema at its most realistic about the headlong rush of our societies. 

What is the meaning of the band’s name, and how do you relate it to your music?
HCT: We were looking for a name that would sum up our aim of highlighting everyone’s denial of the horrors of our daily lives, while rejecting any form of responsibility, in the manner of Hannah Arendt‘s report on the banality of evil. We wanted it to be short and punchy. We spent a few hours on it while it was right under our noses, or at least in the extracts from a film we were using: Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom by P.P.Pasolini. The very mention of the name conjures up feelings of embarrassment and even disgust for those who have seen it. This was, and remains, our primary intention in all our compositions, namely to shock and offend. To shock, to offend, the better to incite reflection for those who want to take a closer look at what we’ve composed. This was also Pasolini‘s aim throughout his work, particularly in his film Salò. To provoke the spectator into his voyeuristic posture. We’re not comparing ourselves to Pasolini, we’re just trying, in our own way, to provoke reflection on the headlong rush of our species.

L’Appel du Néant, your debut album, will be out shortly. Do you already have any feedback on it?
DLE (keyboards/samples) / HCT: It’s always a special moment when an album comes out. We think back on all the work that went into it. We’re very proud of the result after all those months of work on it. We also had to deal with the transition from quartet to trio. This required us to rethink many elements, including the handling of the drums sampled live. To achieve this, we surrounded ourselves with professionals from the world of spectators, the team at the Circuit de Cherbourg as well as that at the Gare aux musiques in Louviers, where our sound engineer Ber works. Normandie Musique Actuelle (NORMA) also supported us with technical training. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. So, yes, we’re proud of what we’ve achieved and can’t wait to see the album in stores. For us, this release also marks the start of a new cycle. As far as initial feedback is concerned, all those close to us have confirmed that we’ve taken a quantum leap forward, in terms of composition, sound work and the album’s ambience. What’s more, after the few concerts we’ve played, the feedback we’ve received from the public has been in the same direction, which is a good sign and reinforces our determination to continue working on the follow-up to L’appel du Néant.

How would you sum up L’Appel du Néant in three words?
DLE: Cinematographic, pulsating, brutal.
HCT: Violent, melancholic, reflective.

L’Appel du Néant comes out just over two years after Sortez Vos Morts, your first EP. How did you go about composing it? Did you notice any changes or evolutions in the creative process?
DLE: The composition work for L’appel du Néant went very smoothly, and there were no particular worries in that respect. In fact, we started composing the album immediately after the release of our first EP, Sortez vos morts. On the novelty front, we collaborated with Thomas Njord (drummer for Venefixion and Ende) to compose the drums. He did an incredible job, composing and recording via his electronic drums. We then mixed and integrated them into our sound system. In our approach to composition, we started with improvised sequences using modular synths. We used them to build a track. We’ll continue to develop this kind of method.

The themes addressed on L’Appel du Néant are relatively harsh and sensitive on each track. How did you decide to tackle these themes, and what « inspires » you?
HCT: Right from the start of the project, we wanted to tackle societal issues and express our feelings without moralizing. Just a statement of fact, the denial of everyone in the face of adversity and emerging or future problems. We draw our inspiration from everyday life, from what we read, from discussions we have with friends and family, and sometimes from our own experiences. 

The band collaborates with Diego Janson from Karras for the track J’affronte la mort, and with Mütterlein for the last two tracks, Et pourtant j’essaie and La cendre et le sang. How did you decide to work with them?
DLE: For Mütterlein, the three of us listened to his second album a bunch of times. To tell you the truth, I was following his other band Overmars at the time, and I was blown away by her voice on Born Again. That was a long time ago, but when Marion came back into the spotlight with Mütterlein, I found her voice with much more intensity. She has a unique approach, you feel a lot of emotion when you listen to her. And it’s so dark, even though her music is fundamentally not that brutal. It’s a question of atmosphere, of emotions, and we absolutely had to collaborate with her – the three of us talked about it regularly. Once we’d made good progress on Et pourtant j’essaie, it was obvious for us to propose this piece to Mütterlein. So we went along to meet her, and a few weeks later she sent us back the track with all its parts, and her voice made it all the better. We’re really proud to have her on our album, it means a lot to us. For La cendre et le sang, we asked her to recite a text to close the song, and it just clicked. I hope we’ll have the chance to work together again, she’s incredible.
HCT: As for the collaboration with Diego, it’s the same approach as with Mütterlein. We’re all big fans of Karras, and Diego‘s voice has such a special grain that we wanted to work with him. As DLE knows Diego, it all came together very quickly. I worked remotely with Diego as well as with Mütterlein on the articulation of our respective passages. The result is beyond our expectations, the piece has taken on another dimension. I’m very proud to have been able to collaborate with Mutterlein and Diego.

The band’s lyrics are in French. Why did you choose to keep this language?
HCT: Singing in French is an obvious choice for us. Mainly because the text, and therefore the vocals, allow me to deliver the message in a much more comprehensible and explicit way than in English. If the film excerpts are shocking, the song has to take it to the extreme in order to have the desired impact. On the other hand, I love the French language, playing with words and working on my rhymes. 

I know it’s a difficult question, but do you have a favorite track on this album? Or the one that seemed the most natural to compose?
DLE: Yes, that’s a tough question, and depending on the mood of the day, I’ll stick to a different track every time. Right now, I’m listening a lot to J’affronte la mort. I find that HCT and Diego‘s voices blend well and bring a good dose of brutality to the whole. And it’s perhaps our catchiest track on the album.
HCT: Personally, I prefer Et pourtant j’essaie. Certainly because there’s a much more personal side to it.

What can you tell me about the artwork for L’Appel du Néant? What were the guidelines for its creation?
DLE: We contacted CLLK again for the artwork. He’d worked on the first EP, which went really well, and we wanted continuity in the graphic rendering. So he worked very quickly on the front cover, almost a year before recording. He suggested this family scene. We were immediately hooked by his offering, and in the end this rather striking image perhaps unconsciously influenced the rest of the album’s composition. The rest of the cover came later, almost a year later. HCT had submitted the idea of a modern interpretation of Jérôme BOSCH‘s paintings. CLLK worked on it, and we stepped in to ask him to add elements little by little. The idea was to create a triptych around our themes, scenes that summed up the mood of the album.

The screen on the right personally reminds me of the story of Robert « Budd » Dwyer, is this a deliberate reference?
HCT: It could have been, but it’s not. In the right-hand screen, we wanted to represent what will happen to the man at the end of his headlong rush. It’s also the song J’affronte la mort (“I face death”), or what you might call a modern-day ordeal: you’re no longer trying to prove your innocence in the eyes of God, you’re defying life, or death, depending on the angle from which each protagonist projects himself.

L’Appel du Néant is released on Source Atone Records. How did you come into contact with the label, and how is the collaboration going?
DLE: It was a step-by-step process, and in the end we never contacted any other labels. In fact, we’d been following each other since the release of our first EP. Source Atone told us they’d really enjoyed Sortez vos Morts. For our end, we felt that their identity and catalog were not only eclectic but also qualitative. While we were finishing the album, we went to meet them to discuss the possibility of signing with them. Beyond the aspect of working with a label, we wanted a human connection. The day we spent with them convinced us that if there was one label we should release the album with, it was Source Atone Records. Now we’re part of their team, things were clear from the start and we’re happy with the collaboration. They give us good visibility, good distribution and a transparent relationship, which is the most important thing in a band/label relationship. 

The band has already played a few concerts, how did they go? How does a show go from your point of view?
HCT: On stage, whenever possible, we’re as serious about our posture as we are about our lighting. Playing with the lights is another way of drawing the audience into this infernal spiral. Secondly, there’s very little interaction with the audience. Firstly, because we think of our sets as an unfolding film, with little or no intermission. We aim to capture the audience’s attention from start to finish. Secondly, as I’m a fairly introverted person, I don’t feel the need to go into too much detail, especially as our songs are self-explanatory. As far as audience reaction after our concerts is concerned, there’s been a lot of positive feedback, and for those who’ve been with us since the beginning, they emphasize the band’s progress. Some also expressed surprise at the sampled drums. They were all expecting the mechanical side of the drum machine.

In your opinion, what are the must-see bands on the current scene? Both established and emerging.
DLE: Kill The Thrill have released a new album 19 years after the release of Tellurique, and it’s clearly an event for Industrial music. Autophagie is a real sonic journey, with a lot of risk-taking, but at the same time it’s totally logical. In 19 years, you age, you experience things, you grow, so inevitably this has repercussions on your songs. Gone are the English vocals and the drum machine, now it’s French vocals and acoustic drums, but there’s still that fucking creative force in this band. I can’t wait to see them live. I’m also looking forward to the release of Reverence‘s next and final album (Industrial music/Black Metal), which I’m sure will put the church back in the middle of the village!

What are your plans for the rest of Salò? In the immediate future, or in several months’ time?
HCT: We can’t wait to get back out on the road again. We’ll have the opportunity to do so in 2024, and we’ll do what it takes to show what we’re worth. At the same time, we’re continuing to work on our sound and lights through residencies with the Gare Aux Musiques team in Louviers. We’ve also started writing our next album, so there’s a lot of work to do on that front too.

Are there any musicians or artists you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
DLE: Nicolas Dick or Vindsval would be absolutely enormous. Nicolas for the strength of his voice. Vindsval‘s featuring on the last Terra Tenebrosa album was really catchy. It was powerful and totally mystical.
HCT: I’d really like to do a track with Fange and Karras. Collaborating with Napalm Death would be like realizing a childhood dream for me. On a different note, I’d also like to collaborate with Kaelan Mikla.

Do you think you’ve improved as a musician with this album?
DLE: Yes, clearly, because in addition to composing, over the last three years we’ve done a lot of residencies, and we’ve also taken part in training courses that have enabled us to benefit from follow-up over several months, including a trip to Swan Sound Studio for a course on frequency cleaning. Right now, we’ve been selected to take part in a 20-day residency with La Gare aux Musiques. In fact, on a personal level, I’ve never learned so much in such a short space of time about certain technical aspects that are required when you play in a band. We’re talking about amateur music, we’re not professionals, but by evolving with them (be it Ber de la gare aux musiques, Brice, Manu Laffeach, Cyrille Gachet and so many others), by listening to their advice and applying it, you inevitably make progress. I’d really like to thank them, because as well as being « killers » in their field, they’re also kind-hearted.
HCT: Definitely. Personally, I worked a lot on my vocals with professionals like Inside the Scream and Emmanuelle Renouard. This album has also enabled us to evolve in the construction of our tracks, particularly in the introduction of more contemplative passages, since violence can take many forms. 

Which bands do you dream of playing with? I’ll leave it to you to imagine a date for the release of L’Appel du Néant with Salò as opener, and three other bands.
DLE: I’d dream of opening for Norway’s Red Harvest or V28. It’s never going to happen, because those two bands no longer exist, even though I know that Red Harvest worked on demos a few years ago. In fact, playing with Mütterlein, Fange or Subterraen would be really great.
HCT: I’m going to cheat a bit. My dream would be to play with Napalm Death, Watain and Anaal Nathrakh. A set for the release party of L’Appel du Néant with us opening, without hesitation Mutterlein, Karras and Napalm Death.

That was the last question for me. Thank you for your availability, final words are yours!
DLE: Thank you, and see you soon!
HCT: Thank you for the interview and for your work in promoting emerging bands. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who, in one way or another, have helped and advised us to get to where we are, with a special mention for Ber, Manu Lafféach, Cyril Gachet, Brice Macé, Baptiste Bitouzé, Emmanuelle Renouard, Virginie and Yuna.

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