|Artwork by Paolo Girardi|
Chthe’ilist sound like Demilich.
There, we’ve gotten that out of the way. Greetings and salutations, friends. Today, we will plumb the depths of a madness emanating from Quebec in the form of Le Dernier Crépuscule (French for "The Last Twilight", presumably not a reference to Breaking Dawn) and the Finn-worshipping Chthe’ilist. As I mentioned (and as has been mentioned in likely every article regarding the band in the history of time), Chthe’ilist draw no insignificant amount of influence from infamous Finnish oddballs Demilich. It’s an unavoidable comparison, given both bands’ predilection for off-kilter riffs, but to simply dismiss the band as pure Demilich worship is pure folly.
While we’re addressing misconceptions regarding Chthe’ilist, let’s not forget that despite the band’s name and apostrophe-ridden song titles like "Vecoiitn’aphnaat’smaala" and "N'triiodctuion'to Iagorsmataanph" (from the similarly apostrophe-ridden Amechth'ntaas'm'rriachth demo), none of the band’s material is drawn from the Cthulhu Mythos. This is not to say that the band’s lyrics aren’t influenced by the works of Lovecraft, because the influence is clear on lyrics such as these:
A lone traveller gazes at the stygian horizon, as twilight fades below the distant mountains. Slowly, shades of darkness descend upon the desolated plains before him, and a sense of dread plagues his mind: the certitude that something is lurking amidst the withered trees, haunting him ever since the sun has vanished.But it is important to note that the lyrics are almost entirely based on original works by the band.
You will notice, of course, that I said “almost entirely”, and that is where we come to one element of Chthe’ilist’s work where there are no misconceptions. If the title of the album’s final track, "Tales Of The Majora Mythos Part 1", doesn’t make it abundantly clear, Chthe’ilist have written songs based on The Legend Of Zelda (specifically, Ocarina Of Time and Majora’s Mask). The deeply unsettling tone of the lyrics may seem a bit at odds with the atmosphere of the Legend Of Zelda games initially, but the combination is incredibly effective in practice:
A cursed moon hangs low in the tumultuous skies, glowing ominously over plains of arid desolation. A stone tower stands before these haunted lands, its structure perpetually ascending toward the heavens. Bitter lamentations from lingering spirits echo through the valley, speaking of a forgotten aeon. Rumours of ancient men, and their war against the gods, bridging their world to the sacred realm.Musically speaking, I mentioned the similarities to Demilich, and I also mentioned how Chthe’ilist are far more than a mere Demilich clone. The bands share a predilection for odd compositions and unconventional, sometimes discordant riffing, and there’s a technicality to the music that bears certain similarities, but Chthe’ilist draw a great deal of influence from a number of other classic death metal bands, from Gorguts and Convulse to Adramalech and Incantation. (Certainly, vocalist Philippe Tougas bears more of a sonic resemblance to Craig Pillard than Antti Boman, aside from some moments and interludes that find Tougas creating some truly alien sounds with his vocal cords.)
Chthe’ilist are comprised of Tougas (who provides lead guitar, bass, and synths in addition to vocals AND plays in a number of other bands, including Serocs and the underrated First Fragment), Claude Leduc (who handles guitar, synths, and some occasional bass), and Philippe Boucher (an insanely talented drummer who is also in Beyond Creation). The trio are incredibly talented and rise admirably to the challenge of creating such challenging, compelling material, layering unusual riffs with eerily beautiful leads, the occasional dash of slap bass, held together by some astoundingly versatile drumming. The production is simultaneously spacious (thanks to some well-implemented reverb) and suffocating, but none of the musical elements are lost in the mix and everything is distinct without feeling sterile or robotic.
If I had a complaint about the album, it would be that the music is by its very nature rather inaccessible and difficult to wrap one’s head around. Without a number of repeat listens, the songs can be difficult to remember and may turn off the more casual listeners. However, digging beneath the surface and immersing one’s self in the music can be incredibly rewarding, revealing an album that stands out from a sea of squeaky clean tech death bands and HM-2-wielding Swedeath revivalists. The investment in time is well worth it.
So, as I said earlier, Chthe’ilist sound like Demilich, and that’s okay, but it’s important to remember that there’s much more to Le Dernier Crépuscule. This is one of the deepest, most inventive death metal creations you will hear all year, and to miss out would be to do yourself a great disservice.