Bacchus was the name adopted by the Romans for the older Greek god Dionysus. He was a complex deity — a god of winemaking and wine, of fertility and festival, and of ecstasy, insanity, and ritual madness. Another name used by the Romans for him was Liber — “free” — because of the freedoms his cult represented for its followers from the norms and dictates of repressive powers. In the states of possession induced by Bacchanalian rites, they cast off the chains that bound their minds and emotions to the rigid expectations and oppressive demands of conventional society.
We have no special insight into why the French atmospheric black metal band Bacchus adopted that name for themselves, beyond what we can hear in their self-titled debut album, which we’re premiering today in advance of its December 30 release by Solar Asceticists Productions. However, listening to it is very much like partaking in chthonic mysteries that induce elysian visions and unexpected epiphanies. It creates its own form of possession, casting an irresistible spell, one which is both seductive and frightening, carnal and unearthly, mesmerizing and profoundly menacing.
And it does have the effect of freeing the listener from worldly cares and mundane preoccupations.
The album was composed by Moïse Mestriaux, and he also performed synthesizers and selected samples used in the music. Aiding him were members of Abyssal Vacuum, Dysylumn, and Ominous Shrine — Sébastien B. (guitars, bass, vocals) and drummer Camille Olivier F.B. (who also mixed and mastered the album).
The music they created consists of contrasts, though almost everything seems to reverberate. The neck-cracking drums and deep, earthy bass tones consistently create an irresistible compulsion for head-nodding movement, even when their pacing and patterns are stately, and especially when they rock and dance. On the other hand, the high end of the range is populated with an array of ethereal sounds of supernatural effect. The vocals also create contrasts. Some of the tracks make significant use of the spectral wail of operatic female voices, but they also include the ravishing wails and ominous roars of the male vocalist.
The opening track provides a gripping introduction to the maneuverings of the album as a whole. It builds gradually through the layering of different sounds. Dismal tones resonate like the tolling of bells, joined by those haunting operatic wails and pounding drums. The music swings into sinister strummed chords and drums going off like rhythmic gunshots. The female voices remain a chilling presence, but joined by Sébastien B.‘s own extravagant cries. Shrill flickering strings can also be heard, and the layering of all the sounds creates a sensation of chilling, menacing, supernatural eminence. You will nod along to the music’s rocking cadences, embraced by the music’s eerie spell, which becomes even more inviting thanks to an otherworldly ringing solo.
As the album continues to unfold, the music often becomes panoramic and cinematic in its sweep as the synths glisten and soar, but although the grandeur of the music is often unmistakable, the moods change — though the feeling of mystery never goes away. At times the sounds are sensuous and seductive, at other times ghostly and grim, and at others saturated in a melancholy bordering on hopelessness. There is true splendor in some of the movements (albeit a sinister splendor), and in others a feeling that’s funereal and desolate. The music carries you along irresistibly through these changing sensations, straight through to the closing synthesizer piece, shorn of rhythm, with an oceanic sweep and an astral atmosphere, but with an air of tension and peril near the end.
Solar Asceticists Productions will relese Bacchus in a limited tape edition and digitally on December 30th. It features artwork and layout by Quentin Q. What a wonderful way to help bring this wretched year to an end.