Plebeian Grandstand – Rien ne suffit

Every year, there are releases that solidify the following statement: “This has been a great year for music.” Rien ne suffit is an example of this. I co-host a radio show at my local university called The Funeral Directory. It’s a metal specialty show on Monday nights. We do it for the love of aggressive music, and partially because we don’t trust anyone else to create the playlists. If you’re like me, you listen to a lot of metal, and perhaps you wrongly assume that certain bands are household names at this point. “Everyone knows Imperial Triumphant”, you might think. “Everyone has heard of Deathspell Omega.” If you’re like me, you might think that everyone has heard of Plebeian Grandstand, but checking their Spotify monthly listeners, I am clearly wrong. This is a mistake on the world’s part, because everyone should know Plebeian Grandstand.

In select niche metal circles, dissonance is king right now. For some bands, it’s always been this way; take Blut aus Nord for example. They’ve been writing horrifying music for decades. But there’s a trend in black and death metal right now—peculiar tunings, ugly chords, natural-sounding recordings, and the search to find harmony in “dissonant” songwriting. For some, the age of direct input is over, or it never began in the first place. I could tell you that you’ll like this record if you enjoyed Imperative Imperceptible Impulse, Ad nauseam’s newest record. I could tell you that you’ll like this record if you enjoy Imperial Triumphant, Pyrrhon, Nightmarer, Altarage… Of course, the target audience will be pleased with this record. That comes as no surprise. What I need to stress to you, what has made me cry a few blissfully satisfied tears while listening to it in the car (twice in a row!), what sets Plebeian Grandstand above, beyond, and beside their peers is this:

Plebeian Grandstand is romantic.

Rien ne suffit is beautiful. Tragic. Poetic. They’re the only black metal band that I’ve ever described as sexy. This record has its ears pierced; its hair is symmetrical and straight; it’s wearing a dark shade of lipstick. It’s sleek. Athletic. Its ribs are visible through its tightly stretched skin. This record carries a switchblade in its boot. It looks over its shoulder when walking alone at night. Though it was released in November, the music is sweltering, hot, sweating, agonizing, emotional, hurting. The vocals are unpolished and raw; authentic and painful. The new addition of synths make already-intense songs breathtaking. The percussion—assertive and driving, unforgiving and dominant. The guitar is slow and deadly; venomous, heartbreaking, and moving; the bass possesses these same qualities with equal finesse. Combine all these elements, and we have a tasteful LP, sincerely worthy of being labeled “high art”.

Personally, I find it uninteresting to rate albums numerically. Quantifying the quality of music is intimately personal, and our opinions are dependent on our history with the band, the date of when the record was released, the musical context in comparison to other albums… the list goes on indefinitely. Instead, I will tell you this: I have been waiting for this record for years, and it is everything I could have asked for. Rien ne suffit is a dense, emotional album, reminiscent of an opera or play, and the actors are frighteningly convincing. The music is convincing. I am immersed by it. The music bleeds, it cries, it hurts, it prays. It wears the same scars that we do. Its bones are aching, its muscles are bruised and sore. It has hopes, dreams, and aspirations. This record is alive, gasping for air, and though it may be emotionally vivid, it leaves the listener with a single bleak summary: nothing is enough

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