Drastus - La Croix de Sang
Norma Evangelium Diaboli
Black Metal
7 songs (46:48)
Release year: 2019
Norma Evangelium Diaboli
Reviewed by Goat

Hailing from France, one man (and a drummer) project Drastus is a carefully-constructed intersection between Deathspell Omega-esque dissonance and the more orthodox strains of black metal. The result, as on second full-length La Croix de Sang, is a technical yet atmospheric album that uses murky blasts and dense, visceral deluges of riffs to great effect. Most tracks are dominated by the ominous guitar tone, especially coming into its own towards the end of brutal opening salvo Nihil Sine Polum but at its best when forming the centrepiece of the darkly building Crawling Fire. The highlight of this is the melancholic clean singing that manages to not feel at all out of place despite initially seeming better suited to doom; coming to you from a distance at first and gradually getting closer, taking precedence over the usual growls, a victim's final wail before being consumed by darkness.

Sure, this sort of black metal is not at all new but rarely is it performed so well, so intense and powerful, grimly keeping your attention without any listener-friendly indulgences like choruses or even hooks. Listening to the majestic likes of The Crown of Death can feel like eavesdropping on some occult ritual, initially doom-tinged riffs soon turning almost grandiose as they're whipped into a frenzy. There's a similarity to the epic death metal of recent Sulphur Aeon, Drastus using more of those eerie clean vocals in a similar way to the Germans, but there's an added proggy touch to the way that the black/death riffs develop here that's distinct from the usual black metal hypnotism, culminating in an almost Nile-esque peak that fades away, leaving you wanting more.

It's interesting that the best tracks here are the longest ones, both The Crown of Death and Crawling Fire well over the eight-minute mark, with shorter tracks like the excellent Ashura merely bursts of violence in comparison, and the brief Hermetic Silence an unnecessary ambient interlude. Yet it serves as a breather before Occisor's blackened thrash opening and ensuing mix of galloping and slower, more considered tempos, enough of a change of pace to make criticisms soon forgotten. And album finale Constrictor Torrents is simply masterful, a nine-minute distillation of what you've heard thus far. It begins with what is almost a continuation of The Crown of Death's final section, more of that epic torrential riffing but allowing it to intensify and distort back on itself to truly hypnotic effect, leading the listener into a bleak void. At its peak the despairing clean vocals return, probably more effective here than anywhere else on the album, kicking the song into a chugging breakdown without losing the hypnotic swirl that propels into a powerful ending. An impressive listen; La Croix de Sang is the work of a black metal craftsman who knows his tools well, and necronauts everywhere should give Drastus a listen.

Killing Songs :
Crawling Fire, The Crown of Death, Constrictor Torrents
Goat quoted 80 / 100
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