Back in stock, this time in a new gloss-finish jacket.
There's something special about how the French are able to take a sound that has been beaten to death - that of the apocalyptic metallic dirge that Neurosis pioneered on their Through Silver In Blood and developed further by Isis over the course of their first few albums - and twist it into something both bleaker, darker, and at the same time elegant and stentorian. Just off of the top of my head, there's Overmars, Year Of No Light, Omega Massif and HKY, four bands who all trace their cyclopean sludge metal sound back to Neurosis's revolutionary art-metal, but who all sound radically different from one another and from the more straightforward music that most of their American peers have been creating. From HKY's cosmic industro-doom psychdirge to the sky-reaching Disintegration worship of Year Of No Light and the blackened avant sludge opera of Overmars, it's obvious that French metallers are some of the best at taking this omnipresent sound and reinventing it in a way that few others are capable of doing.
The latest French band to be added to the list is Celeste, who just released their third album Misanthrope(s) on the excellent German label Denovali, which has brought us a number of quality albums from Daturah, Kodiak, Heirs, and other artful European sludge/metal outfits. Coming from Denovali, I had a hunch that Celeste were going to along the same lines as most of their other releases, which tend to run along the lines of post-rock influenced heaviness, but this is much heavier than anything else on the label, and definitely much, much darker, too. As soon as Misanthrope(s)'s opening track "Que Des Yeux Vides Et Séchés" blasts forth from the speakers, you can hear the Neurosis influence on the mighty, chugging riffage and tortured screams, but as the song continues to violently wind it's way onward, the increasingly spiteful tone of the vocals and the sheets of dissonant buzzing guitars that coil around the thunderous tribal drums and hypnotic dirgey riffs, and the holocaustal black metal intro of "Toucher Ce Vide Béant Attise Ma Fascination" seamlessly falls into punishing sludge with a truly devastating riff that rises up halfway through, it become clear that Celeste are also drawing deep from the oily black pool of French black metal. The nine songs on this album aren't exceptionally long for this style of atmospheric sludge metal, with most averaging around six minutes, but Celeste create some supremely crushing riff-trances in the time they have, combining grinding downtuned Neurosis-esque crush with the sort of dissonant guitar textures that you'd normally expect from a Glorior Belli or Deathspell Omega album. Like most other bands in this style, Celeste also work in some softer extended instrumental sections that build into explosive crescendos of heaviness (as on "Mais Quel Plaisir De Voir Cette Tête D'enfant Rougir Et Suer" and "La Gorge Ouverte Et Décharnée" - every single song title on Misanthrope(s) is a freakin' mouthful), but even in these more subdued moments, Celeste never get soft, creating tense buildups that put you on edge rather than soothe you with melodic frippery. No, this album keeps it caustic and black as fuck from start to finish, and set the tone with an unremittingly bleak and nihilistic bent to their lyrics, like what Year Of No Light would sound like with their dreamy sludge inverted and drenched in light-devouring malevolence. Clearly, Celeste are shooting for something more than just another attempt at cloning the signature sounds of Neurosis and Isis.