Peste Noire at Betong (Oslo, Norway) on 19 January 2008.
|Years active||2000 – present|
|Labels||La mesnie Herlequin|
|Associated acts||Valfunde, Vouïvre, Alcest, Horna|
|Members||La sale Famine de Valfunde|
Sainte Audrey-Yolande de la Molteverge
Peste Noire, taking their name from the Black Plague, is a black metal band from La Chaise-Dieu, France. It was formed by La sale Famine de Valfunde in 2000. Their music utilises standard black metal elements mixed with more traditional Gallic instrumentation. The band is sometimes referred to as P.N. or K.P.N (Kommando Peste Noire). According to Famine, they do not play "National Socialist Black Metal." Instead, he characterizes the political alignment of the band as "right-wing anarchism" and describes himself as a "French national-anarchist" 
Peste Noire was created by La sale Famine de Valfunde (i.e. "The filthy Famine of Valfunde") in Avignon in 2000, initially under the name Dor Daedeloth. Neige (Alcest), who played in the band's first eight years of existence, joined him on drums. Together they crafted four demos and one split demo tape. Argoth, a bass player also member of early Alcest fame, helped up to the 2002 "Mémoire Païenne" split.
In 2006, Famine hired new members Winterhalter (drums) and Indria (bass). They completed what Famine began to call "Kommando Peste Noire". At the time, Famine had fired Neige from the band and P.N. was a three-piece when the debut La Sanie des siècles - Panégyrique de la dégénérescence was produced by French label De profundis éditions in August 2006. The music on their first effort was mostly melodic and sorrowful, turning at times towards a more aggressive and chaotic sound within lengthy and elaborate song structures. With hymns such as "Dueil Angoisseus", "Spleen", or "Le Mort Joyeux", the record caused a stir in the underground black metal scene. It helped establish the band on an international level.
De profundis éditions produced Peste Noire's second album Folkfuck Folie, released in June 2007. It featured studio versions of the four "rehearsal" tracks from the "Lorraine Rehearsal" and Famine described it as "Folklore d’égout" ("Folklore from the sewers"). It was recorded on a tape machine, in the same way punks produced their albums in the 80s, thereby showing the band's disregard for conventions. The lyrics sometimes seem on the verge of autobiography, and they mainly deal with apocalyptic themes, the final triumph of the body over the torments of the mind, primal barbarity, wartime poetry, the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases, and mental disorder, the latter of which is symbolized by the radio sample of the demented poet Antonin Artaud used as an introduction to the track "Folkfuck Folie". The songs are generally shorter than on their debut and the production has a much grittier quality. Famine ironically said that his goal was "to create the ugliest and most irritating sound possible, in order make the album unlistenable after having heard two songs", adding "You have to be mentally unstable to go through the entire album". In his own words, Folkfuck Folie was an attempt to weed out the “trendies” in their audience, which put Peste Noire on the map as one of the most rebellious and unconventional act in the genre. Unsurprisingly, there appears to be a widespread popular stigma surrounding this particular release.
In March 2009, Peste Noire released their third album Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor (i.e. "Ballad against the enemies of France") with a new line-up; drummer A. (from Darvulia) and bass player Ragondin filled the chairs vacated by Neige, Winterhalter and Indria. This album, whose main theme is based on the nostalgia for medieval France manifested through traditional military songs or royal chants with warlike, nationalistic lyrics, is reminiscent in sound of the P.N. demos, but the style has evolved into a mix of black metal and progressive folk, with crust and hard rock rhythms. It also features piano / Hammond organ interludes played by Sainte Audrey-Yolande de la Molteverge, who is also responsible for the female vocals, notably on Peste Noire's interpretation of one of the Action Française's Monarchist anthems, "La France bouge". Unlike the previous two albums which had been captured in the Rosenkrantz studios, Ballade was recorded with intentional simplicity and sloppiness by Famine on his own equipment, in order to fit with the general national romantic aesthetics and the production was kept lo-fi and raw. Famine, still living up to his controversial reputation, characterized this unique style as "Boyscout satanism" in a very typically French fashion. Following their tradition of using the works of medieval French authors and poets in their albums, P.N. also adapted the 14th-century French poet, thief and vagabond François Villon's poem "Ballade contre les ennemis de la France" into a black metal version, entitled "Ballade cuntre les anemis de la France", as well as 19th century fin de siècle poet Paul Verlaine's piece "Soleils Couchants" - both these poets' roguish, low-life aesthetic being perfectly suited for Famine’s purposes.
Having relocated to Auvergne, Famine created his own label, La mesnie Herlequin, in May 2011 to release the band's fourth effort: the folkish and carnivalesque L'Ordure à l'état Pur ("The pure essence of garbage"). The album's cover artwork displays a graffitied version of Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People where the allegorical figure of Liberty is parodied as a decaying, walking corpse and Gavroche pictured as a one-eyed pig, whilst another figure has a toilet seat for a head - all of which heralds a new French Revolution with different protagonists and ideals. Notre Dame de Paris is also replaced by the World Trade Center's smoking Twin Towers. The album, which benefits from a warm and crisp production, was recorded and mixed between August 2010 and January 2011 at the Green Studio by Engwar. It saw the return of bass guitarist Indria and the recruitment of a new drummer, Vicomte Chtedire de Kroumpadis, as well as the integration of a cellist, an accordionist and a trombonist to enhance the various atmospheres or folkish aspects of some of the songs, such as the trombone-driven ska punk and accordion folk song intermezzi in "Casse, Pêches, Fractures et Traditions". A large amount of stylistic influences pervade the five songs, from the industrial black metal-orientated "Cochon Carotte et les soeurs Crotte" with its zouk intermezzo highlighted by Indria's fretless bass solo, or the rockish dirge "La Condi Hu" underpinned by haunting cellos and introduced by brooding monk-like chants, to the rich, medieval and emotional épinette des Vosges melodies on "J'avais rêvé du Nord" ("I had dreamt of the North"). The traditional/folkish and acoustic elements, including Audrey Sylvain's fragile vocals, are pitted against the more modern aspects of L'Ordure à l'état Pur, an album packed with samples of urban violence culled from French TV news reports, ambulance sirens, riots, guns being cocked and shots being fired, and BDSM performed over Eurodance beats, displayed on long, drawn out cinematic songs. All of which together paint a giant fresco of hopelessness, a brutal documentary of collective decomposition.
The band's fifth album, simply entitled Peste Noire, was released in June 2013 on the label La mesnie Herlequin. It was entirely composed, recorded and mixed by Famine from September 2012 to February 2013 at his home studio in the Auvergne, itself called "La mesnie Herlequin studio". The new line-up revolves around Famine (vocals, guitars, bass, various drums, bells ...) and Ardraos (drums, accordion), plus a plethora of guests. These include additional vocalists (from the more typical Swedish black metal vocals of Ravenlord and Melkor of "Woods of Infinity" and the Ukrainian death growls of Hate Forest/Drudkh's Roman Saenko, to Audrey Sylvain's clean female vocals), as well as additional instrumental musicians; some of which enrich the album with more traditional/folk influences (such as accordion, hurdy-gurdy, flute), some more classical (i.e. cello), and others just downright strange (e.g. carnyx, lituus). The album, which is anti-urban ("Niquez vos villes" [Go fuck your cities]), explores themes of local history, notably of the legends ("Le clebs noir de Pontgibaud" [The black mutt/dog of Pontgibaud]) and literature ("Démonarque") of the Auvergne, by providing a reinterpretation of a Crusade song from the thirteenth century troubadour Gauceran de Saint-Leidier hailing from the Bishopric of Velay, as well as delving into national Medieval history ("La bêche et l'épée contre l'usurier" [The spade and the sword against the usurer]), and that of the beginning of the 1940s ("Le retour de la peste" [The return of the plague]). Famine also tries his hand at pure Oi! as demonstrated on the track "La Blonde" (the Blond), dedicated to beer.
In July 2014 a collaborative split 12 inch LP was forged with Parisian group Diapsiquir, called Rats des Villes VS Rats des Champs [lit. "City Rats VS Country Rats"], released by La mesnie Herlequin. Peste Noire took the famous poem "Le rat de ville et le rat des champs" by Jean de La Fontaine as its main inspiration behind the split's title. Some perceived this release as the confrontation of two irreconcilable worlds; However Famine talks of Diapsiquir as the group which best embodies contemporary urban France, and so is the one which is most symbolically appropriate to oppose his rural black metal.
La Chaise-Dyable, the band's sixth album, recorded once again by Famine in "La mesnie Herlequin studio" with the support of drummer / accordionist Ardraos, saw the light of day in April 2015. In black metal that sees frenetic electric guitars ("Payés sur la bête") vying with acoustic and bucolic lulls ("Avant le putsch"), Famine continues to anchor his themes in everyday life. He recounts the loneliness of rural nights ("À la Chaise-Dyable"), the harsh climate of the Livradois and of his ethylic flights of fancy to flee from them ("Quand je bois du vin", a drinking song featuring Audrey inspired by a sixteenth century's Tourdion). In lyrics both hallucinatory ("Le Diable existe"), and fantastical ("Le dernier putsch"), his village La Chaise-Dieu (from the Occitan "Chasa Dieu", literally "House of God") becomes "La Chaise-Dyable", a bastion haunted by the Devil where coups against the capital are fermented. In a first for the group, the second version of the song "Dans ma nuit" was the subject of a professional music video directed by Anaon Productions.
The band signed with Militant Zone in 2015 to distribute their albums in collaboration with their own label "La Mesnie Herlequin" which released the band's seventh studio album Peste Noire – Split – Peste Noire on December 14th, 2018; it featured Spellgoth from Finnish Black metal band Horna as a session keyboardist and the last participation of Ardraos who left the band after completing recording drums, he was replaced by Ukrainian drummer Baal shortly after. The album is presented as some kind of "split" between "traditional" Peste Noire music and their recent, more experimental side. The first 5 tracks are called "Traditional Part" while the last 5 are called "Degenerate Part" and featured experimentation with Trap music and the band's signature style. Furthermore, tracks 5 and 7 are re-recordings of older songs; track 5 originally appeared on the Macabre transcendance... demo and track 7 appeared on their debut album; La Sanie des siècles - Panégyrique de la dégénérescence.
In April 2007 the Finnish label Northern Heritage released the Lorraine Rehearsal 12" EP. Bearing the legend "Hooligan Black Metal", the EP featured four "rehearsal" songs recorded in Lorraine from August 2006. The B-side is the second version (20 minutes 10 s. long) of the epic track "Phalènes Et Pestilence", composed by Famine in 2005 and then recorded on his own recording equipment (A tape version of the Lorraine Rehearsal was also released on Roman Saenko (Hate Forest, Drudkh)'s label Night Birds Records in 2009. The first edition with black/white artwork was limited to 300 hand-numbered copies, the second with red writings was limited to 500 hand-numbered copies). For the first time P.N. became a four-piece band (still with Winterhalter (drums) and Indria (bass), and Neige (second guitar on the "Lorraine Rehearsal") being reintegrated) fit for playing concerts. On 3 June 2007, Peste Noire played their first concert in Toulouse, France.
At the same period, Famine worked on two more songs called "Sérénade" and "Hôpital", a blend of folkish Black metal and post-punk with electronic beats featuring Sainte Audrey as guest vocalist. He released these songs under his own name Valfunde in a split 7" EP with Amesoeurs produced by De profundis éditions in November 2007. In the liner notes it says: "Recorded and mixed by Famine on outdated equipment with low-priced microphones". Famine quickly dropped the idea of Valfunde, which wasn't his solo project but rather a short-lived side-project using electronic beats. Instead, Famine used the post-punk ideas he had for Valfunde in Peste Noire's third album Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor (2009).
Also released in 2007 was a self-released double protape box Mors orbis terrarum containing all Peste Noire's demo tracks from the sold out demo tapes, and also a split 7" EP with Finnish black metal band Horna which contained the new track "Paysage Mauvais". The Mors orbis terrarum compilation was re-released as vinyl by Debemur Morti Productions in September 2008 (This vinyl release includes all the demos featured on the tape box, except the very raw Aryan supremacy demo and the second demo version of "Phalènes et pestilence" which was on the B side of the Lorraine Rehearsal vinyl released by Northern Heritage in 2007).
La Sanie des siècles was repressed by De profundis éditions and Transcendental Creations on cd in August 2008. A vinyl version of the album was co-produced by De profundis éditions and Finnish label Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions in August 2009. The tape version was produced in 2013 by Night Birds Records in collaboration with Todestrieb.
A tape version of Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor was released in March 2009 by the label Tour de Garde from Quebec.
A limited vinyl version of Folkfuck Folie co-produced by Mikko Aspa's Northern Heritage and De profundis éditions was released in April 2010. It includes a long 2007 interview printed on newsprint answered by Famine. A tape version of Folkfuck Folie was also released on Roman Saenko's Night Birds Records at the same time. It was limited to 300 hand-numbered copies.
In April 2012, La mesnie Herlequin released Les démos, a double CD boxset containing all the Peste Noire demos (all the songs recorded between 2001 and 2005), including the Valfunde tracks.
In August 2012, La mesnie Herlequin repressed Peste Noire's third album Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor on CD with new artwork. The first pressing had been released by De profundis éditions in March 2009.
In September 2013, Famine was featured on Swedish band Shining's 8 ½ - Feberdrömmar I Vaket Tillstånd album. He sang on "Terres des Anonymes", a rerecording of "Fields of Faceless" (from "III - Angst - Självdestruktivitetens emissarie") with French lyrics.
One of PN's themes is that of Satanism (although not any type of Satanism, as PN preaches the worship of Indoeuropean Satans or Devils inspired by Pan, not the monotheistic Jewish cult of the Semitic Satan) which as a theme is common in black metal. According to Famine, in hindsight, Peste Noire really play "Gothic" (as in Gothic horror), "Fantastique, grotesque, archaeofuturist black metal".
Even if Famine's music is indeed characterized by anarchic disdain and/or aristocratic sarcasm (Famine acknowledged the underlying influence of grotesque artists such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder and François Rabelais in Peste Noire's music), thus giving it its distinctive voice, Famine's vision of Black Metal is also based on nationalism and Peste Noire is proud of French cultural heritage, especially that of medieval France. Famine used some texts written in Middle French by medieval French writers such as François Villon (for the song "Ballade cuntre les anemis de la France"), Geoffrey of Paris (for "La bêche et l'épée contre l'usurier"), Christine de Pisan (for "Dueil Angoisseus") and Guillaume de Machaut (for "Amour ne m'amoit ne je li") and from modern French writers, such as Charles Baudelaire ("Le mort joyeux" and "Spleen"), Paul Verlaine ("Soleils couchants"), Tristan Corbière ("Paysage mauvais"), and Robert Brasillach ("Psaume IV") in the band's first albums.
The musical inspirations of Peste Noire were initially the pioneers of Black Metal such as Burzum, Mütiilation and Vlad Tepes. The highly personal art of Peste Noire, in constant evolution since its inception, is today also as much influenced by French folk groups such as Malicorne as by more urban styles in the vein of street rap such as Neoklash or the anarcho-punk sounds of Bérurier Noir.
They have been suspected of being a National Socialist band but Famine categorically states that they are French nationalists. Famine further explained why Peste Noire’s concept is based on nationalism when he stated:
"Black Metal is the musical memory of our bloodthirsty ancestors of blood, it is the marriage of Tradition, of old racial patrimony with fanaticism, with the rage and the rashness of a youth now lost. It is a CHTHONIC religion: a cult of the EARTH and a return to it, therefore a nationalism; a cult of what is BELOW the earth: Hell – the adjective “chthonic” applies to the Infernal gods as well. BM is a fundamentalism, a music with integrity (from latin integer, complete) which helps me to remain complete in a dying world, amidst a people in decay, unworthy of its blood. It is the apology of the dark european past. It is a psychosis which helps us to flee a reality we cannot tolerate anymore."
More recently Famine as Peste Noire has become more associated with National Socialist acts Famine has stated:
"Claiming that we are not NS was simply a matter of historical and ideological accuracy, although some people saw it as an attempt to switch camps, or even to promote an anti-NS rhetoric. People are really stuck within this NS / anti-NS dichotomy. I said that PN was not NS, but I never said that PN was anti-NS. PESTE NOIRE does not speak of Adolf Hitler, that’s all. If I were to say that PN does not deal with plants in its texts, would that mean that PN is against tulips and poppies? And seriously, PN is too punk to be NS. Some would see the fact that we are not associating ourselves with National Socialism as a weakness, hypocrisy, or the fear of getting into trouble. LOL: If I were afraid of trouble, I would not do a project such as VOUÏVRE — with a guy who is totally in NSBM. I would not show my support for AZOV, I would not have a “Me Ne Frego” tattoo right up my neck, and when people get to know with whom PN is going to collaborate – you have my word – they will quickly understand that I have no taboos in this regard whatsoever."
In that same interview Famine also clarified in regards to his interview in 2014 and pictures of him being shown giving the right hand salute:
"I feel closer to Italian fascism than to German National Socialism. So how is it surprising that those who sympathize with fascism are making the right hand salute?"
Regarding the presence of Asian bass guitarist Indria in some of Peste Noire's albums, Famine has made it clear that elitism and nationalism are equally important for him, and that since he viewed Indria as the best bass guitarist in the French black metal scene he saw no contradiction in hiring him in 2005. Famine insists on the fact that in French nationalism, a minority of foreigners is allowed to become French by proving their worth and their will through time, because it is a milder, smoother and less ethno-centric style of Nationalism than its German counterpart. He uses the example of the French Foreign Legion to illustrate this aspect of French nationalism. Famine also used the dark-skinned Indria as an alibi to bypass censorship. He also acknowledged that Indria was "a whiff of irony and provocation in a far-right world full of narrow-minded bullies."
On La mesnie Herlequin's introduction, Famine also wrote: "To all those who might possess the irrational temptation to place La mesnie Herlequin amongst the ranks of the « far-right » or the even more laughably « NS », we will have to crush their wet dreams by defining ourselves as, at best, rightwing anarchists (which would explain why, at a concert in Montreal in 2008, PESTE NOIRE succeeded in stirring up both rightwing skinheads and local antifas against them at the same time, lol)."
Famine has also claimed to be and have affinity with rightwing-anarchists saying both:
"It is significant that the Italians, who have a tradition of Futurism, the avant-garde and revolution within their right wing, and where many anarchists have rallied with Fascism, have given L’Ordure a warmer reception than the old reactionary, repressed Catholics of the French guard – even when they pretend to be pagans, rest assured they are nothing more than Christians, refusing all experimentation, all excesses, all freedom, basically all real Art; preferring instead the pagan metal with flutes or epic black Viking metal that’s made for men who love other men."
"If I have to clarify my personal ideas that are reflected in PN: I remain staunchly a right-wing anarchist. The idealising of ‘the people’ that goes on in the National-Revolutionary and völkisch movements bother me a bit, because this so-called ‘people’ – a herd of materialistic sheep, only united by an interest in cars, their bank accounts, their willies, and shitty leisure sports – are somewhat responsible for their own enslavement by the system. The democratic parliamentary system plays on the wilful and voluntary ignorance (voluntary because these days it is easy to find everything online) of the majority, who are too silly, too soft, too servile to revolt against it because they’re busy watching ‘Deal or No Deal’ on TV. The notion of ‘the people’ is almost a dirty word to designate those who subscribe to preconceived ideas and staid beliefs. I love my race and the white people have produced wonders when guided towards greatness, but amongst them, I refuse the oppression of the majority, the brainless multitude over the individual. I know that power does all it can to brutalise people and reduce them to consumer vegetables. But in doing this, this power is merely exploiting a popular weakness."
Peste Noire lays claim to its underground status by choice, not by accident. The group has always signed with small independent labels which exist on the periphery of the commercial mainstream circuit; a circuit which is incompatible with the ideology of black metal, according to Famine. In 2011 Famine pushed this approach even further by creating his own label and studio, La mesnie Herlequin, located in La Chaise-Dieu, in order to have complete control over the production, recording and distribution of his work, and to dispense with all the middlemen that stood between its creation and sale.
In addition to their first concert in Toulouse on 3 June 2007, Kommando Peste Noire also played concerts in Lyon on 23 June 2007 and Bordeaux on 16 December 2007 with Mayhem. On 19 January 2008, Peste Noire played a concert in Oslo, Norway (at Betong) and one in Boismont on 18 July 2008. In August 2008, they also made a 13-date tour called "Les Treizes Nuits de la Peste" with Akitsa in Quebec, the French-speaking part of Canada. The band refused to play in the USA. It was the first time a French metal band had ever toured Quebec.