Roughly 18 months ago I came across Saudade, the debut album of a French atmospheric black metal band who call themselves Cepheide. Though commenting about only the album’s first advance track here, I found that it was very easy to get caught up in the music’s wrenching passion, and to get carried away as it rocketed toward a glorious crescendo. Its atmosphere was a mix of depressiveness and delirium, an experience both mortifying and majestic, with a swirling, intense, symphonic melody that glimmered and soared, and rising choral voices mixed with scalding rasps.
The album as a whole proved to be just as gripping, and so it was exciting to learn that Cepheide would be participating in a new split release, especially because the other band on the split, Time Lurker, had also proved through their 2017 self-titled debut album to be such a formidable new force. We’ve already paid attention to one of Time Lurker‘s new tracks on the split, and today we get to present Cepheide‘s contribution, a thoroughly engrossing song called “Lucide“, in advance of the split’s release by Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions on May 3rd.
“Lucide” is more than 19 minutes long. Not surprisingly, it surges and ebbs, reaching heights of stunning sonic upheaval and soul-shattering emotional intensity, and turning in dreamlike and introspective directions as well. But even in the song’s softer and more mystical passages, there’s really no backing away from the music’s unabashed display of raw emotion.
The song’s opening is itself dreamlike, as gleaming strings crash and reverberate over a deep, moody bass. The shimmer of wailing notes rises up, perhaps as a sign of the despair to come — and come it does. There’s a sudden eruption of blasting drums, mind-scarring shrieks, and wrenching yells, and an enveloping gale of intense riffing that channels delirium. The cascading waves of tremolo’d chords continue to wash over us as the drumming shifts into a mix of double-bass thunder and methodical snare strikes, moving the mood in ever darker and more desolate directions as Cepheide draw us deeper into the immersive atmosphere they’re creating.
The storming subsides, and we seem to drift outward on calm ambient waters, but that moment of mystical peacefulness doesn’t last long, as the band ratchet the intensity back up. There is grandeur in the music (a quality that is revealed again and again), but it is a terrible kind of majesty that looms before the listener, with feelings of fear and pain delivered on a sweeping, near-mythic scale as the guitars flicker and shine over a riveting drum performance.
Past the halfway mark a bridge heralds the arrival of a riff that has a yearning melodic quality, which becomes the backing for spoken words. The song soars, but the hopefulness in the mood is mixed with the anxious perception that it is all a mirage. And as the music swells again in power and majesty, and then subsides again, the hope seems to evaporate — yet there is also tremendous melancholy beauty in the waves of melody that then move over us, notwithstanding the harrowing effect of the heart-breaking yells that will not be silenced.
There’s a further ebb as the music takes on an introspective and tortured tone, but it builds again toward tension and turmoil, rising into a long epic crescendo of sweeping, senses-suffusing sound, maniacal drumming, and wild cries — with a few last spoken words to bid us farewell, and return us, shaken, to the world we inhabited before “Lucide” took us away from it.
The lyrics to “Lucide” are in French. Regrettably, I don’t speak French, but I was curious enough to run them through Google Translate, and then to further research the English meaning of a few words and phrases in the instances when the Google translation made no sense to me. I wish I could understand the French lyrics, because even in the flawed English translation, I found them fascinating and poetic. After the song stream below I’ve included both the original French words and the English ones, despite the risk that some important things might have been lost in the translation.
And I’ve also included a stream of one of the two Time Lurker tracks on the split (“No One Is Real“).
Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions will release this fine split, which was mixed and mastered by Jack Shirley and features cover art by Cepheide‘s Gaetan Juif, in both CD and LP formats on May 3rd. It includes 32 1/2 minutes of music. Pre-order via the link below.
LYRICS — FRENCH
Écoute-moi encore bien que mon nom soit Personne
Ici les étendues sereines désormais se vallonnent
La lune tourne. L’air s’épaissit, il s’englue.
Je t’appartiens mais je tremble pourtant à ta venue.
J’ai cherché dans le ru boueux de ma mémoire
Un frémissement familier, une clairvoyance
Y plongeant mes mains vivement, trouvant son eau glacée
et parmi les sombres racines, les reflets écarlates de ta présence
L’été a flétri ta pierre et tes tourments.
Le soleil y a martelé ses rayons des mois durant.
Les herbes hautes se sont recroquevillées, tordues sous le poids de l’air.
Toi, demeurant au-dessous, impassible, sens-tu l’odeur de la lumière ?
À l’intérieur de la terre, nos enfants regardent narquois
les dernières volutes de rêve s’évaporer
sombrant dans le même inconnu qui nous dévore désormais
tel des oiseaux d’ombres fonçant sur leur proies.
LYRICS — ENGLISH (with apologies for errors)
Listen to me again although my name is Nobody
Here the serene expanses are now hilly
The moon is turning. The air thickens, it gets bogged down.
I belong to you but I tremble when you come.
I searched in the muddy stream of my memory
A familiar thrill, a clairvoyance
Plunging my hands in it, finding its chilled water
and among the dark roots, the scarlet reflections of your presence
Summer has withered your stone and your torments.
The sun hammered its rays for months.
Tall grass has curled up, twisted under the weight of air.
You, staying below, impassive, do you smell the light?
Inside the earth, our children look mocking
the last spiral of dream evaporates
sinking into the same stranger who devours us
now like the shadows of birds darken their prey from above