Montfaucon are the rare intersection of fascinating story and wonderfully executed ideas. This cross-continental duo is incredibly interesting: both members are originally from Uzbekistan, though multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Valentin Mayamsin recently moved to San Francisco, while pianist/keyboardist Michel Cadenzar still lives in his native land. They traded music files back and forth over the years and were very wise in choosing the legendary Dan Swano to handle the mixing and mastering (if you want your metal album to sound magnificent, Dan’s the guy).
That said, Montfaucon’s debut really takes its inspiration from across a whole different ocean: the UK, with a little help from Sweden. Combining the Gothic death/doom style of the Peaceville Three (Anathema, My Dying Bride, and Paradise Lost) with the grand progressive overtures of Opeth and a hefty dose of symphonic black metal, a la Cradle of Filth. Oh, did I mention that the most prominent musical instrument on Renaissance is the piano? Sure, there are a few neat riffs here and there, and Mayamsin gets a nifty solo in at the end of “Mastermind”, but this is really Cadenzar’s show, with his wistful and haunting piano lines running rampant throughout the record. It’s a testament to the duo’s songwriting (and Swano’s mix) that the resulting album sounds so magnificent, even it’s a bit loud at times. There’s a real sense of dynamics and a Baroque energy that lifts the otherwise impressive black/death/doom mixture to new heights. Renaissance really is a bold and beautiful experiment that works much more than it should (though a few falters do happen – namely “Insanity”).
Montfaucon’s excellent debut is the result of a band blazing their own trails and proving that you can inject new blood into metal successfully. This is easily one of the most unique and interesting metal records of 2017, and it’s a sign of a very promising future.