France offers another Black Metal project, this one an interesting mixture of influences which offer a rather uncommon dichotomy of sounds. Sentinelles' L'envol has certain Orthodox Black Metal flair to it which would make Orlok of Countess proud but combine those very Heavy Metal influenced tendencies with the more modern palette of styles and techniques which appeal to most Black Metal fans. The choice of less aggressive and violent melodies, tempos and performances reminds me of Alcest to an extent though is nowhere near as shoegazey or "hipster" oriented. Across the album Sentinelles is at once conservative and also a bit daring which allows the music to have some really splendid moments such as the Piano flourishes in second track, "Kogda ia Vernous" or the exciting intro to "Immensite et Tristesses," which really sets up the rest of the song nicely. The band lists their influences as such as Negura Bunget, Drudkh, Burzum and Wolves in the Throne room. Those may be indeed be influences of the band however they don't really define the sound of the album. L'envol is not as dramatic, somber or atmospheric as those bands. L'envol is themed around the seasons however the music doesn't seem to portray those themes as well as say, Winterrealm's Ouroborus, which really delineated and created specific individual feelings for each season on the album.
Of the four tracks on L'envol, I thought that third track, "Immensite et Tristesses" was the strongest complete song. I get a Bathory-eqsue epicness with the chanted vocals spread across the song harkening back to masterpieces such as "One Rode to Asa Bay" or "Shores In Flames." Sparse piano pieces - as mentioned before - offer a bit of variety and depth, even if at times they pop out of nowhere in the composition. Refinement of their placement would excel Sentinelles' songs. I think the song that least impressed me was opening track, "Les Larmes de l'Est," which had some slightly jagged lead guitar work, and overbearing, albeit emotional and passionately performed vocals. It's best moments were the acoustic interlude section which would pass for a unreleased Opeth demo from their Orchid or Morningrise days. While the band uses a drum machine for percussion, I was never bothered by it. It's varied and programmed extremely well as to be neither a bust or boon.
L'envol isn't a bad release, it shows a band in formative stages writing and finding their style. I think the possibility of a strong second album is very much there so long as they can perfect their already strong usage of the piano as a defining instrument and continue to hone in on exactly where their strong points lie in composition tendencies. The progressions, melodies and subtle experimentation are already working out well for Sentinelles and so, they've already got a firm foundation in place to really move forward and offer something exceptional.