Oh, you old devil you………LA FIN DU MONDE by ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE (2013); D’HUMEUR MASSACRANTE by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1998); + SULPHUR by NU-BE (2013)))

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I watched too many horror movies as a child.  I did. And while I credit the terror that those brilliant products of the seventies and eighties engendered in me with helping to give me a rather unchained, lurid, and vivid imagination, the searing, mind-altering experience of seeing such petrifying films as Salem’s Lot; The Exorcist; and The Omen I + II with my younger brother, both of us scared beyond witless and hysterical and unable to sleep (our father barking at us even more terrifyingly to GET TO SLEEP) has given me not only a subliminal fear of crows and their eye-pocket-pecking potential (for life), but also left me with a profound fear of anything devilish, evil, or satanic; not even funny:  not even in jest. The topic is one I quite simply fear to touch –  exposing perhaps, a conservative side of myself on The Black Narcissus, that I am yet to fully, (and will never, probably) explore.

Duncan brought home a copy of Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus the other day, a masterpiece of European literature by all accounts that I am dipping into with definite fascination,  but also a certain trepidation, with its tales of artistic genius and pacts with the Dark One, particularly since some Italian friends of ours the other night suggested, in all seriousness, that Lady Gaga, who I am going through an absurd thing with in these last few weeks, might actually be a satanic force ( and I have been POSSESSED; still am:  by her latest, and brilliant, album ARTPOP).

To me, while I took this all –  discussed over dinner in a pasta restaurant in the north of Tokyo –  with a certain bunch of salt, they were, as I say, genuinely in earnest; and they are both, in any case, fearfully intelligent types; fingers really on the various pulses (so oops there goes my innocent pleasure….)

While deep down inside I think that Stefania Germanotta is probably more of an angel to be honest: more an angel, certainly, than the devil’s hand maiden; I have to admit, embarrassingly, that nonetheless, some fearful, infernal seeds have still been sown:  unwantedly, and a bit frighteningly,  in my brain.

I know that I do have a strongly mischievous and contrarian side to my nature, I am naughty, quite rude, and a bit saucy; and I do truly hate the hypocritically pious, and the ‘holy’, and the whole of right wing America, and of England, who are obviously way more aligned with Satan, if he exists, than Lady Gaga, (isn’t advanced capitalism, in some ways, the devils’ work?): but there is nothing remotely, actually, (surely!!! surely…. tell me!) devilish about me I like, naively to believe…….. ( is there?!!)

 

And though I am highly attracted, still, and always, to the lavish baroque ridiculousness of the luxuriant vampire, that whole world  (of Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey’s exquisite Blood For Dracula; of Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to name but a few-  a pile of ludicrous, luscious nonsense from 1993 that, as any friends of the time will attest sent me into total rapture when I was at university; saw me speaking in a Transylvanian accent for two weeks after, despite what anybody thought), I am never drawn, ever, I don’t think, to anything genuinely evil. This may seem like stating the obvious, but I have known people who have flirted with such things; and I am always, myself,  deeply wary of even approaching these dark, nether regions of cosmology that may, or may not, truly exist. You will never catch me within even a mile of a oujia board; oh no siree (though if someone close to me died, who knows?……….)

 

In any case, today’s admittedly weird post (come on, it is the end of a long term) might seem like an odd choice for a perfume review, especially during this spiritual (in theory) festive season in the run up to Christmas, but I have just in fact received samples of two perfumes, fun little things, actually,  that touch on the very themes I have been superficially elaborating on right here; one, the great sulfurous, Luciferian abyss that mankind has (rightfully?) feared for millennia; and the other, the actual, tectonic shaking end of humanity itself.

 

 

In truth, if you were to smell either of these new scents blind, images of destruction, annihilation, or of almost any form of malevolence would almost definitely not surface, particularly in the case of the cloud-fluffily floss-minx that is Fin Du Monde; which, like Divin Enfant, another supposedly devilish scent from this deceptively rule-breaking enterprise, is definitively all bark and no bite. Sulfur, however, a fine new perfume by Italian outfit Nu-Be, whose seven current perfumes are all conceptually based on the periodic table, does have a certain, hot-spiced Mephistophelian spike in its tail. A person leaning over you at some restaurant, or at a club, or even on a train, wearing this scent: nonchalantly, blatantly: might be really, physically, or just intensively, rather irresistible.

 

 

 

This is what Etat Libre D’Orange has to say about their latest perfume….

 

 

“Etat Libre d’Orange presents the end of the world.

Okay, we know what you’re thinking.  Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.  You’ve heard the ominous warnings, the dire threats.  You know all about the cults, the cataclysmic visions, the Armageddon battle.  You’ve endured the panic of the Millenium and the Mayan prophesy, you’ve read about the End Times and the Rapture.

And you’ve actually seen it!  Yes, we’ve all witnessed the end of the world, in one or more of its possible manifestations.   Maybe you remember the look of horror on the face of Charlton Heston, when he realizes that this savage planet dominated by apes was actually good ol’ Earth.  You might have seen Slim Pickens as aircraft commander Major T.J. ‘King’ Kong, who straddles the bomb like a cowboy and rides it to the ground, thereby setting off the Doomsday Machine.  Or Will Smith, running from the virus-mutants, the only survivors of a plague.  You gaped at the two sisters and a child, huddled together in a teepee as the blue planet Melancholia hurtles toward earth, and you watched how a variety of Canadians observe the last night on earth – praying, partying, finally achieving an orgasm.

And maybe you screamed when that giant hand came crashing up through the cabin in the woods as the ancient gods reclaimed earth….

Natural disasters, man-made catastrophes, plagues and religions and nuclear bombs – so many options!  And as the world comes to an end, we shudder and shriek and weep and maybe even laugh (Dr. Strangelove!) – from the comfort of our plush seats in the dark movie theaters………

But now we know what the end of the world might look like.  And we know how it will smell.

Like popcorn. “

 

 

 

 

You know, I actually kind of love this.

So conceptual! So playful, so hilariously Dada-esque; the end of the world being reduced to the scent of popcorn, which this perfume doesn’t exactly smell of, but which is about as equally threatening. I do kind of love this tongue-in-cheek total silliness. And La Fin Du Monde is, in fact, very typical of this perfume house: a fun, and in some ways quite daring, enterprise whose perfumes I often like, but which I also find quite thin and overly similar to each other, usually, once I have overridden the thematic pleasure that the always amusing copy engenders (essential to this house’s enjoyment; without the story dreamed up for each scent I honestly don’t think there would be very much there at all to get excited about: but here, plugging right into the Chapman heartstrings, they even blatanly reference one of my very favourite films from last year – Melancholia by Lars Von Trier…….they really covered all the bases with their cinematic end-of-worlds here….)

 

This latest release – cute, playful, pliant, kind of typical – is a sweet, gourmandish, iris/carrot seed/ambrette number with curious top notes of cumin, sesame and popcorn (and, apparently, though don’t necessarily believe it –  gunpowder) that goes from a irisian, papery, and peppery, pleasant initial freshness, to a more vanillic, sugary and sensual ending of sandalwood, vetiver, and styrax that you have, in some ways, smelled before.  It lingers, and finally even emotes, (empathy for those hyperventliating heroines trying to escape on the big silver screen?), quite nicely, if a touch weirdly. It has character, certainly, and that is definitely something. In the long run of things, however, I would say that La Fin Du Monde, a name for a perfume that should surely command respect, a reaction, or at least something, something EPIC, is most definitely a case, unfortunately, of (rebellious, audaciously, gallic) sugar-spun style over real substance.

 

 

 

Sulfur

“represents the demonic spirit, the darkness. A juice coming from the shadows, a satanic elixir… ……notes revealing the bowels of the earth………nothing is pure, a fragrance evoking hellish potions: warm spicy accord of pimento, cinnamon and black angelica . Earthy and root notes of vetiver, patchouli and moss. Animalic character of costus and castoreum………. And deep resins like opoponax and myrrh.”

 

I must say, actually, that this perfume is pretty good.  It is a  taut and masculine composition, modern but classic, that makes me feel as though Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver had suddenly ripped off his tailored suit, his overly manicured attitude, and, for reasons, not yet disclosed, instinctively got low down and funky in some back room…….the opening a nose-tingling miasma of reddish elements that does in fact capture some feeling of heat and of volcanic-ness (this comes by no means from the bowels of the earth I would say, though – not that I have been there….), but, definitely,  more enclosed and tingling than the usual………

What it does indubitably evade is a certain thinness that I hate in many recent perfumes. While there is none of the musky plenitude of the eighties’ machos, those Ungaros, Tsars, Kouroses and the like, those perfumes that bent from the neck, from the chest, and announced themselves unbearably (so wonderfully!) in your face, there is still a tightness here; a bound-together, spiced and turned up woodiness that is dry, feisty, a touch troubled; quite sensual.

When it comes to sulphur, though, the natural smell of which I despise, especially when it comes in the guise of the bubbling, helliciously eggy spouts of steam that rise up from Japanese hot springs, I am very glad, to be honest,  that the perfume in question today does not actually smell of this substance  (Who would actually want to smell of sulphur?). Though in truth I do have another ‘angry’ scent like this in my collection, actually, the tinder-dry D’Humeur Massacrante from L’Artisan, a limited edition from back in the day that likewise played on a sulphurous theme; the heat of a match being struck, an incandescent moment of fury. That also has pimiento, and pepper, and other fiery substances, particularly an overdose of nutmeg, and it kind of, I have to say, makes Sulfur seem a bit of a pussy in comparison.

On the other hand, Massacrante (I always loved that name! A perfume to massacre people by!) was meant as a mood diffuser, as part of the Sautes D’Humeur collection that also starred perhaps the greenest perfume ever made, the stinging-nettle laden D’Humeur Jalouse, as well as the girliest; the little girls’ nails and puppy dog’s tails pinkness of the hilarious D’Humeur A Rire.

These scents were never really intended as fully fledged, orchestrated perfumes anyway; they were designed, more I think, as little excerpts to break up your day, to accentuate or else get rid of a certain mood. Massacrante is great, undoubtedly, but has a certain two-dimensionality. Sulfur is more rounded; gets deeper, and more resinous and impressive as it goes on, increasing in horniness,  smooth-tonguedness and well-rehearsed, urban-seductive techniques as the hours, slowly in your purgatory of boredom, waiting for this horndog to arrive……. pass.

 

Nu-be’s (what kind of name is that, incidentally?) ‘Sulfur’ is not really supposed to represent the devil, then, I am happy to say; but, like the about-to-go-out-person wrapped up in furs and defiant last-minute squirts of Etat’s Fin Du Monde, with its later, more suggestive notes that linger more than you might expect from that jazzy, easier-than-thou opening, this perfume, in its arid truculence, its sly elegance and vetiver assertion is, undeniably, despite a lack of any real originality or transgression, really, actually,  kind of devilishly sexy.

18 Comments

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18 responses to “Oh, you old devil you………LA FIN DU MONDE by ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE (2013); D’HUMEUR MASSACRANTE by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1998); + SULPHUR by NU-BE (2013)))

  1. Dearest Ginza
    So much here to ponder on…
    Yes, those films from the 1970s… Salem’s Lot in particular left an indelible mark, then there was Don’t Look Now which, quite understandably, cast a long shadow over my first visit to Venice.
    Once touched by these masterworks of cinematic black magic I don’t believe one can ever truly escape… I found myself on my birthday this year watching an old print of the Kinski Nosferatu at the BFI.
    How odd about that flawed Coppolla remake. I developed an obsession too, but mainly because he insisted on using no modern special effects. Everything was done in the manner of early film. I recall in particular that Vlad’s return to the coffin was actually footage of his emerging shown in reverse to give it a ‘weightless’ quality.
    As to ELd’O, I wish I could be more generous about their perfumes and the (pseudo) intellectual paraphernalia that surrounds them. I can’t help thinking this sounds more Doglas Adams than Dada, except the joke isn’t quite as good as ’42’ at the end of Hitchhikers’.
    Perhaps my problem with them is I find the whole concept too authorial, a large part of the pleasure of scents (for me at least) is the stories that their inevitable abstraction spark. When the back story is supplied as part of the packaging it all seems too obvious, too dull. Like rather too many of EDd’O’s odours I’m afraid to say.
    All that ranting over, it could of course, be nothing more than my really not wanting to smell of popcorn.
    As to Sulfur, sounds ‘quite nice’ but really I now want something that lives up to the baroque and polyester glamour of the gore fests of thirty and forty years ago.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Dear Ginza, what a splendid write-up. Personally I have little fear about anything satanic, and believe that things lurk in our subconscious that would eliminate any need for an external Prince of Darkness, and indeed would pretty much eliminate his job. Which is exactly why this interior darkness, the realm of Hades and Anubis and who knows how many others, fascinates me. No Ouija boards needed; the trip down through the layers of gates to our core defenses is of necessity self-propelled. And why not a spray of the devilishly sexy to sweeten the way? Will have to seek out Sulphur.

    • What a beautiful way of writing about this. I was hoping you would turn up: I need to discuss this further.

      As for the perfume, I think you will find it is just a modern vetiver with a twist. But there is definitely something extra in there, a whiff of something deeper.

  3. Lovely review. I too found the Fin du Monde a bit lacking in ooomph and wished they had put some surprise in the notes. After the inital :”Oh, that doesn’t smell dangerous” moment it doesn’t have much more to say.
    The perfume I found suitable for a satanic ritual is Byredo’s M/Mink. Not that will ever try this idea in real life, of course

  4. Katherine

    I love all this. I think of horror and gothic stuff more as a great release from very real personal fears and anxieties, or at least deeply expressive and dynamic and fun entertainment. Such impressive, elaborate forms, that must invoke some power from within but generally rich narratives that transport you somewhere else in the distant tapestry of cultural history. I don’t really believe in the devil and all that, but I’ve always been held by all those films since childhood too. There’s something thrilling about it all. I love Coppola’s Dracula. Don’t Look Now is one of my favourite films, the old women are so creepy! The Exorcist is so gritty though, the young priest’s grief is really dark and real. Melancholia is fantastic! I could definitely watch that again soon. I’ve started getting intothe Hammer films recently, such lush productions. And have also been guiltily addicted to the camp and pretty trashy American Horror Story series, with Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates.

    But anyway this was a really funny/thrilling read!

    • Katherine

      And besides from the entertainment of it all, whilst I was in and out of sleep last night and basically going mad from tiredness my mind was taking on such crazy baroque forms, probably spawned from life stresses and too much gothic horror, it felt like I was gripped in a dark frenzy, and I awoke on the sofa with my mind straddled in some sort of gilded composition of the Guerlainade base! I think I’m definitely more scared sometimes of the darkness within, at least when I’m over-tired and go off on one (a bit like Lucy in Dracula! But more irritable and less sexy). I must read up on Hades. Also, I went to see the Isabella Blow exhibition at Somerset House the other day, which featured the brilliantly dark Alexander McQueen Creations. I think I’ve had a slight preoccupation with dark things recently…

  5. Katherine

    Sorry for such long comments!

    • You have got to be kidding me! I love it. What you write is lurid and swoonsome and rings true for me. To be honest, after I had written it I had to get rid of it, or at least gloss over it my reposting something harmless and pretty. To have such interesting and beautifully written feedback is immensely gratifying.

      I also adore Don’t Look Now; that isn’t even a horror film for me, it is just beautiful.Have you seen Morrissey’s Blood For Dracula and Flesh For Frankenstein? Utterly exquisite camp schlock trash of the highest perfection.

      • Katherine

        Yes it is beautiful art, and i know what you mean it doesn’t fit in that category for me either really, but the old women have this childish horror fascination for me, and it so deals with the devil. I can’t believe I haven’t seen every one of his films actually given how much I love that one. I haven’t seen the Paul Morrissey films, though they are now next on my list! There’s a whole world of old horror films I’m yet to see!

      • No the Paul Morrissey films strike a note of extreme beauty; purposefully fake and camp, but camp in the boring way. Visually and musically and in every sense they are perfection for me personally, although many would just see pure rubbish. But that would be because they are a bit thick.

  6. Katherine

    I’m so glad you did write this though. My mind is whirling now! And I think there is something very interesting about the connection with horror and the gothic and beautiful aesthetics and perfume, to state the obvious. Which you’ve often written about before. A kind of intoxicating madness that is part of life maybe..I’m not sure how to put it.

  7. Katherine

    I’m excited to see them!

  8. Katy

    All the devils in the world live in the hearts of men/ women and that is where they ought to stay opined Gandhi. When I was younger I took great comfort from this quote believing that only other people, not me, had the capacity for evil. What time and truth have shown me is that we all have devils in our hearts. It is when we acknowledge our own capacity for great destructiveness and chaos, malice if you will, that we can also embrace our capacity for great love and goodwill. The dark and the light are integral parts of us all. A well balanced person has both aspects, as do most great fragrances. I have a hard time watching horror films but one of my favorite magazines is Rue Morgue. So I love to read about scary movies, just not watch them.

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