Born out of the streets of France, netra are able to make quite the impact by melding very different genres together seamlessly and with style. Due to an unconventional mix of black metal and trip-hop, the tone of their music ranges from extremely laid back to aggressive, and sometimes both at once. What’s even more unique however, is that all the music is composed by the hands of just one individual. His name is Steven Le Moan and he is the reason the music is able to flow so fluently. He just has a natural ability to craft songs that take huge risks, but never seem to feel gimmicky or tiresome. This is exactly what he does with 2010’s Melancholie Urbaine. Although it’s only about half the length of his most recent effort Sorbyen, it doesn’t leave any less of an impact on the listener.
With paranoid dialogue and song structures, Melancolie Urbaine is truly haunting at times. ‘Outside…Alone’ is one of the eeriest tracks on the album as it mixes depressing and sometimes manic dialogue with some groovy but relaxed bass and bluesy guitars. It might sound like a strange combination, but the added sounds of everything from cars to seagulls flying over the angry dialogue gives the song a lifelike feeling. It seems Le Moan’s goal was to capture the sounds of the city life and he hits the nail square on the head as we are immersed into his vision. The song starts out sounding quite relaxed, with some low, depressing vocals over some chill drum beats and bass. However, everything changes after you get past the 2 minute mark. The sounds of crashing waves, demented laughter, and almost suicidal dialogue work together to create a complete monster of a track. As the mood shifts from dark to darker, Le Moan also brings in the muddy guitars that don’t seem to waiver throughout the schizophrenic speaking sections. Sure, it’s not the most uplifting thing I’ve ever heard, but it certainly seems to be one of the most gripping. Another standout track, ‘La Page’ flaunts the band’s softer side with some atmospheric downtempo electronics that lead the way into some scratchy black metal-esque vocals. However, the screams are followed by some unexpectedly poignant vocals slightly reminiscent of Tool that should be enough to get anybody’s attention. It’s a perfect example of Le Moan’s ability to switch between various vocal styles, while sounding fresh each time. His talent as an instrumentalist isn’t any less impressive though, as tracks such as the opener ‘City Lights’ and ‘Outside…Maybe’ rely on almost nothing more than his delicate use of electronics and some doom-like guitars.
While Sorbyen is surely just as good as Melancolie Urbaine, there’s just something about this album that goes down easier. Due to every track being placed perfectly, the short album goes by even faster and it’s one of those releases where you’ll find yourself listening to it twice in one sitting. Even despite some very blunt and angry dialogue that takes up a decent amount of runtime, pieces of beauty are scattered throughout the release which gives it a nice balance and flow. Ironically, the word ‘netra’ itself actually means emptiness, but the music created by Le Moan is anything but that. It’s generously filled with imagination and packs quite the musical punch in less than 30 minutes. Anybody looking for an atmospheric metal album that shifts sounds without ever dragging on or becoming unfocused can’t go wrong with “Melancholie Urbane.”
1. City Lights
2. La Page
4. Through the Fear
5. Terrain Vague
Release Date: 2010