To add piano into metal is nothing new, though it hasn’t been done very often in the way Montfaucon attempt on Renaissance. The piano is a main instrument, moving the song on as the other instruments tag along. Its presence is impressive when the song diverts from goth-infused death metal into a blackened monstrosity, requiring an inhuman display of dexterity. Renaissance has something that metal needs more of: originality.
Montfaucon are a duo separated by an ocean and about a dozen countries. Mikhail Epifanov, who handles the piano and keyboards, is in Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country bordering Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. Valentin Mayamsin, who handles the rest of the instruments and vocals, is in the United States. Thanks to the internet, these two traded files and created Renaissance without having to be in the same room.
Though the piano is used heavily throughout, especially when it wraps alongside riffs on “Prisoner” and “Alone,” Mayamsin gets to have a few spotlight moments of his own. A stellar guitar solo near the end of “Mastermind” is appealing, and one of the few instances where the guitars take the lead on a song.
Epifanov isn’t strictly tied to the piano the whole album, as organs and other various sounds give a gothic sonic wink to music made during the Middle Ages. There’s a classical touch to a few of the songs, though they are buried underneath blast beats and rancid growls. It’s all done with a straight, serious face, though the spoken word introduction to “I Was a Warrior” invokes memories of Tormentor’s unintentionally hilarious introduction of a similar nature on “Elisabeth Bathory.”
In metal, the piano is usually a background tool, a way to enhance the song while staying out of the way. Countless progressive metal, symphonic black metal, and gothic metal groups have done this for decades. What makes Montfaucon different are that they aren’t satisfied with the piano as just an atmosphere enhancer, but as essential as the rest of the instruments. Without the piano, the songs fall apart, and that’s what gives Renaissance its delightful potency.
(released February 17, 2017)