(This is Andy Synn’s review of the new album by the French black metal band Celeste. The album was released on September 29 by Denovali Records.)
Whenever I write about an album I make a real effort to try and give it some sort of theme beyond the generic “this track is good, this track is fast, this track is slow” boilerplate which seems to make up so many of the homogenous and interchangeable reviews I read elsewhere.
For me it’s all about placing an album in context. Whether it’s talking about where an album sits in a band’s discography, how it compares to the rest of its genre, or the impact that line-up changes may (or may not) have had upon the writing, there are always ways to make a review more interesting to read (and to write).
Heck, in recent months I’ve used reviews to ruminate on the issue of “selling out” and the perception of Black Metal as a singular “monolith”, to ask questions about what it is that makes a band good/bad, and to rail against people who claim that there’s “just no good new music anymore.”
But even I’ll admit that sometimes it’s enough to just say “this album kicks ass” and leave it at that.
Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t just leave it there. Maybe some more detail is needed.
But I still stand by my initial statement, as Infidèle(s), the fifth album by French firebrands Celeste, kicks more than its fair share of ass, and finds the furious foursome as rabid and pissed-off as ever.
For those otherwise unfamiliar with the band, Celeste operate in that weird, liminal space between Black Metal, Sludge, and Hardcore, and sound a little bit like a knife fight between Gorgoroth and Converge, with all the inherent harshness and viciousness that implies.
With that description in mind it should come as no surprise to learn that the ten tracks which make up this album are positively overflowing with venom and vitriol and don’t pull any punches when it comes to delivering a truly punishing dose of primal ferocity.
The guitars on tracks like “Cette chute brutale” and “Comme des amants en reflet” seethe and slither like a nest of vipers, brimming with scalding, sulphurous fury and coiled, predatory tension, while the vocals are delivered in harrowing howl of pure, unyielding anguish, all underpinned by a relentless percussive pounding courtesy of drummer Antoine Royer.
For all its vein-busting intensity, however, Infidèle(s) is more than just a one-trick pony.
For every frenzied facemelter like “À la gloire du néant” or “De l’ivresse au dégoût” there’s a track like “Tes amours noirs illusoires”, that focusses more heavily on moody menace and atmosphere, or “Sombres sont tes déboires”, which leans more towards the chaotic, blackened sludgecore side of the band’s sound.
There’s even a surprising amount of melody to be found, if you know where to look, with numbers like “Sotte, sans devenir”, electrifying instrumental “(I)”, and caustic closer “Sans coeur et sans corps” dredging up an undercurrent of subdued, sombre melancholy amidst all the crashing chords and bruising blastbeats.
And while only time will tell if Infidèle(s) has the same impact and staying power as its predecessors such as Misanthrope(s) and Animale(s), it’s unlikely that you’re going to hear many more albums this year as vicious and as visceral as this one.
The complete album is streaming at Metal Injection (here).