Q&A: JB Le Bail Scorches Earth With New Svart Crown EP, ‘Les Terres Brûlées’

Svart Crown

The French black metal scene illuminates darker pathways, and Nice-based Svart Crown are on the bleeding edge of that movement. Over five full-lengths–the latest Wolves Among the Ashes (2020) crushed our hapless spirit–Svart Crown have innovated on yet maintained the fidelity of their aggro-dissonant sound. New EP, Les Terres Brûlées, is no different. Released on the band’s own label, Nova Lux Production, in conjunction with Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions (Pensées Nocturnes, Borgne), Les Terres Brûlées travels back into Svart Crown’s history for its vile inspiration, while also jettisoning convention by covering (and translating) Converge’s “Dark Horse” into a riotous piece of avant-violence in form of “Cavalier Noir.”

Decibel and frontman JB Le Bail (also of Igorrr fame) connected our respective dark souls to give Les Terres Brûlées the time it demands. While Svart Crown have peers–think Azarath, Belphegor, and Arkhon Infaustus–it’s clear with Les Terres Brûlées they’re on the verge of yet another breakthrough. Listen to “Les Terres Brûlées,” “Digitalis Purpurea,” or “Geoulah” to hear (and understand) the trio’s–comprised of Le Bail (vocals/guitar), Clément Flandrois (guitars/vocals), and Rémi Serafino (drums)–conjunction of Deathspell Omega and ISIS, but without sounding like either.

Read on as Le Bail takes us deep into the scorched earth of Les Terres Brûlées.

Wolves Among the Ashes was released two years ago. What have Svart Crown been up to since? Obviously, the pandemic put a damper on forward movement.
JB Le Bail: We released Wolves Among the Ashes a month before the pandemic started. We (at least) had the chance to do almost two weeks of our European tour with Gost, but we had to cancel the remaining shows when the pandemic started. Even if it was really frustrating, we had the chance to perform a bit, which was not the case to many bands. During the first lockdown, we mainly chilled out in the beginning, but after a few months, I started to think about the future and wrote [down] some ideas. We also did a big live session for the European Metal Alliance–a live session project created by all the biggest European festivals. It was a really exciting thing to do. We set up a show in an old French amphitheater next to my birthplace called Ramatuelle in France. We also had few lineup changes, but we tried to keep [moving] forward.

Tell me about the latest EP, Les Terres Brûlées
JB Le Bail: It’s basically our sixth release. It was recorded last year in studios in the south of France and our own place. The mix and master was done–as usual–by Francis Caste at the Studio Sainte Marthe (Arkhon Infaustus, Hangman’s Chair, Regarde Les Hommes Tomber). The artwork has been created by Dehn Sora (Amenra, Deathspell Omega, Wovenhand). It’s a five-track EP with four original songs and a Converge cover of “Dark Horse.” We had a few guests like Kyle [Rasmussen] from Vitriol and Stéphane Azam from Crown join us.

I see you went back to basics Les Terres Brûlées. Musically, what were some of the motivators for that atavistic if I may say, shift?
JB Le Bail: Well, it was absolutely not the plan. The only thing I had in mind was that I really wanted a different approach in terms of the general vibe and the recording approach. I wanted to reach an opposite vision than Wolves Among the Ashes–raw, live, and almost minimalist. We had the chance to rehearse for a week in an amazing place. It was only the four of us with our sound guys in a farm with a big room near the mountains. We pre-produced all the songs there, in a live way. During that time, I felt that the direction would be way more extreme and darker than I had in mind. I do feel that this material could have been done between our album Profane and Abreaction.

Les Terres Brûlées roughly translates to The Scorched Lands. Conceptually, what are Svart Crown discussing here?
JB Le Bail: Les Terres Brûlées means a lot of things. First, it’s all about the vision and the dream I had two years ago about some desolate land. I think all are connected about all the forest fires that happened during the Summer 2020 and 2021. And the landscapes and the smell after those fires. I also visited some volcanoes in the French Island called La Réunion, such as Le Piton de la Fournaise, which had a major impact on my vision and inspiration. To finish, Les Terres Brûlées originated especially from this expression: “the politics of scorched land,” which was a Russian technique which consisted of the destruction of their own land, strategic locations, or goods before enemies could take it. This auto-destruction strategy led me to think that every human is capable of the worst for their own “interest.” Exploring the darkest face of the human race has always been our main topic in every Svart Crown release.

I see Les Terres Brûlées is coming out via Svart Crown’s label Nova Lux Production with cooperation from Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions. Tell me how this all came together.
JB Le Bail: Century Media didn’t wanted to follow us on our new project, and for a few years now, I already had in mind to build up our own label. I personally didn’t have the proper time and logistics to work alone on Les Terres Brûlées. After we received the final master, Gérald from Les Acteurs de L’Ombre (aka Ladlo) told me that he really liked the release, so I asked him for some help to co-release the EP.

What is next for you and the members of Svart Crown?
JB Le Bail: We have the Hellfest coming up at the end of the month, and then I really don’t know. Everyone is busy with their own projects. Clément [Flandrois] and Rémi [Serafino] with Hyrgal (black metal) and myself with Igorrr and Dirty Black Summer (blackened post-grunge).

** Svart Crown’s new EP Les Terres Brûlées is out now on Nova Lux Production (CD — HERE) and Les Acteurs de L’Ombre (LP — HERE). Or, hit up Svart Crown on Bandcamp (HERE).