Sunday Old School: Les Légions Noires
The LLN. The Les Légions Noires. The Black Legions. By whatever name, they were an infamous group of underground black metal artists/bands that emerged from France in the early 90s in response to the newly born Norwegian second wave of black metal (bands like Mayhem, Burzum and Emperor). With a penchant for prolific demo output, next to no full lengths, rough and raw material, barely audible/listenable recordings, obscure naming conventions, true satanic piety and rabid anti-commercialism - the LLN made a name for themselves by intensifying almost every black metal stereotype known to the metal community.
Most of the bands centered around a few very talented and driven individuals - Vorlok Drakkstein, Vordb Dreagvor Uezeerb, Vlad Drakkstein, and Meyhna'ch. However, the volume of bands that the group produced greatly outweigh this, with 20+ groups validated as being part of the LLN. The more well known bands of the group included Mutiilation, Vlad Tepes and Belketre, but there were also other hidden treasures and auditory obscurities which many could rightly regard as simply abstract noise.
Being such an obscure group, rumours about their nature have always been rife. More well known tales are of Mogoutre's demo being recorded with a microphone inside a dead rat, or of the bands recording and living within an ancient castle (dispelled as Meyhna'ch's archaic home). To further to add to their underground predilection, the band had an unequaled elitist view of black metal with unbridled contempt shown in statements like the following:
"Black Metal doesn’t mean anything any longer. It has become the shame of Satan, undermined in it’s very essence by all those pathetic worms, false Satanists, traitors and bastards of all kinds, have gathered to insult our art, and the less one can say is that they really succeeded in making it pure shit, a simple and only matter of image, money, publicity."
So why write this article if I'm such a believer in these bands? Why expose bands destined to be hidden in dark places from the taint of the mainstream? Simply put, it would be much more of a travesty to let their art go unnoticed by those who can appreciate it. The hateful garble that is Brenoritvrezorkre, the haunting primitive nature of Moëvöt, the soulful vampiricism of Mutiilation or the disgusting rage of Vlad Tepes are noises that few will be thankful to hear, but those that are will be so fully.
However listeners and more so buyers should beware of LLN releases. Because of internet distribution of LLN material, there are many false bands that claim to be part of the LLN in weak attempts to garner attention. Their recordings were almost never released further than selected people friends and mainly only in cassette formats. While you can still pick up copies of the bigger bands like Mutiilation, most of the limited tapes are only ever seen at exorbitant prices on Ebay with many being fakes and bootlegs.
While the LLN petered out as other projects, contempt for popularity and alleged drug abuse took its toll, Mutiilation and Vlad Tepes stood out as the most distributed in the group. While the LLN did not last, it's effects on the French black metal scene clearly did, making way for bands such as Alcest, Mortifera, Celestia and more who may have done away with the necrotic rodent production, but kept the melancholic sensibility. Even afar, bands like Xasthur pay homage to the LLN with Malefic covering Mutiilation and providing keyboards for a French band like Celestia. The spirit of the LLN lives on however, with Noktu (Celestia) who runs Drakkar Productions being a seemingly official distributor of LLN releases (and one of the finest underground labels there is).
Like much avant-garde art, the LLN has it's detractors. Many criticism about various LLN soundscape projects could be considered valid, but like those who mock Jackson Pollock most cynics are those who say "anyone could make those noises!" But the truth is of course, no-one
but the LLN ever had the evil imagination to do it.
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