March 7, 2017

The cut above: a look back at 2016 part 2

By Bryan Camphire. Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love, the 2016 album by Polish black metal horde Cultes des Ghoules, has five songs and clocks in at one hour and thirty-eight minutes. To refer to this record as epic is no cheap use of hyperbole. The songs are dynamic and feature frequent change ups.
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Mar.A.

Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love, the 2016 album by Polish black metal horde Cultes des Ghoules, has five songs and clocks in at one hour and thirty-eight minutes. To refer to this record as epic is no cheap use of hyperbole. The songs are dynamic and feature frequent change ups. The bass is particularly prominent, and there are even occasional drum and bass breaks, a feature that feels almost more punk rock than it does black metal. This music is raw. The production feels like it is going for as close to a live sound as possible. The effect is to give the feeling of being in the room with this evil coven of sadistic Satanic musicians, witnessing their heresy live as it happens. The singer of this group is known as Mark of the Devil (Is his given name Mark? One wonders... because that would be pretty clever...). To me, he has every bit as much character and originality as Ozzy Osbourne brought to the genre of metal some forty-five years ago. Mark of the Devil cackles, croons, chants, grunts, growls, screams, whispers and sermonizes with extreme gusto. He does his job with a depth and thoroughness the likes of which I haven't heard equaled among other hordes of blasphemers. This man truly sounds like a evangelist for Satan preaching from an altar top adorned with a prostrate virgin oozing blood from every pore. Highly recommended devilry.

Artwork by Trine + Kim Design Studio.

Virus are among the stranger acts making heavy music at present. In fact, their guitar work is predominantly clean, so it is difficult to even categorize the music they make as metal. The devil being in the details, it’s in the group’s sinister use of harmony where the real mischief lies. Put another way, if one were to take the work of Virus transcribed as sheet music and feed it into a synthesizer, no matter what patch one might try to apply (How does this music sound transposed for brass instruments? Or, how might this sound if played on an accordion?), the result would sound much more menacing than most metal music on the market today. This group has been perfecting their craft for decades, and it shows in the strength of their songwriting. This music exists in a delirium entirely of its own.

Cover Art by Raul Gonzalez.

Here we have the genuine article in contemporary American black metal. We take a look at the front cover of this record and we see cold deep blues and blacks everywhere, lightning striking, storms raging, swirling mystical mists, craggy pathways leading downward toward perdition laden with stalactites dripping dreary deathless doom. At the center of all of this is Death Fortress. What secret lies beyond those dark castle walls? How does this horde reign supreme in the realms of the Unyielding? The magic is in the breakdowns. I’m talking about those sections of music where the band plays in half time. The drummer smacks the bell of the ride so hard it sounds like broadswords clashing. The listener pumps her fists and thinks it might just be time to go burn down a church. Listening closely to the tempo changes on this album, one marvels at the rhythm section’s deft balance of tempo changes.

The first track, "Enthroning the Oppressor," goes full tilt for four full minutes of blistering blast beats until that breakdown finally comes in glorious half-time. In the next track, "The Erasure Of Species", Death Fortress seems to sense the lust for blood in the audience, and the breakdown comes forth right at the two minute marker. One can feel the boots stomping along to this deathless march. Then along comes "Mercyless Deluge", and the band careens forth until just one minute and twenty seconds before a riff is played in half time… only to reveal itself as just a fraction of a larger phrase, which speeds up and then slows back down and then speeds back up again, like some unearthly carriage racing around corners driven by mad rabid beasts unyielding in their drive towards the beyond. "Scourge of Aeons", the fourth track, speeds along unremittingly throughout its entire length.

This is where things start to get interesting into the record’s B side. This is where the breakdowns turn into dirges. Track five, "Power Beyond the Stars," plays it’s first minute and a half slowly, really letting the bass come to the fore, and the band just builds and builds from there, upping the tension more and more. "Trail of Graves", the penultimate track, starts fast before devoting its entire last half to an evil menacing dirge. The last track is the record’s title track, clocks in at ten and a half minutes, with drums changing all over the place - which, by the way, is becoming something of a trademark style of Shawn Eldridge, the same drummer of Ruinous, who plays like an undead hellspawn. Get this record already, now that I’ve broken down nearly every breakdown for you. "Enthroning the Oppressor" will never feel so good outside the confines of the unholy Death Fortress.

[Check out Bryan's playing in Bloody Panda and Traducer]
  1. didn't care that much for the previous Culte album. But this one is strange as hell and pretty awesome. Reminds me a little bit of some of the harder Devil Doll (R.I.P. Mr. Doctor) material.

  2. I could see this fit some weird-ass retro sci-fi very easily.
    It's definitely their best and most driving work so far!