Cultes des Ghoules - Henbane
Under the Sign of Garazel
Black Metal
5 songs (58:24)
Release year: 2013
Under the Sign of Garazel
Reviewed by Charles
Cultes des Ghoules, it is fair to say, lurk in one of black metal’s danker basements; abandoning themselves to occult filth and freakish invocations. Henbane is a singularly depraved record which will surely be one of 2013’s extreme metal highlights. So read on…

I recently praised Saille’s Ritu; an album which took well-worn Lovecraftian themes and sculpted them into a sophisticated and polished work incorporating the symphonic and melodic elements of black metal. This album, however, approaches similar themes from the opposite angle- conjuring more the grisly rituals of the man-faced rat, Brown Jenkins, than the high-flown cosmic mysteries of the Cthulhu cult. To some extent I would place Henbane alongside other bands that wallow in the fecund middle ground between black and doom metals- such as Venus Star, or Swansea’s brilliant Ghast. But there is also a bloodthirsty, savage side to this that directly channels Hellhammer or the early Bathory records. So tracks like Festival of Devotion or Idylls of the Chosen Damned, throughout their (long) running times crash between up-tempo riffs that pound and pummel in the manner of The Return or Under the Sign of the Black Mark, and wizened down-tempo hooks. This, alone, is an effective combination, immersing the listener in gleefully primitive music that is never afraid to throw out catchy walking-pace riffs (see Vintage Black Magic for a particularly good illustration of the latter point).

What elevates this, however, into something that leaves a deeper impression is the sheer freakishness of the atmosphere. Listening to Henbane is like intruding on a sweaty occult ceremony. This is in part thanks to the creepy samples, like the witchy chanting that opens The Passion of a Sorceress. It is also to do with the drumming which, as with Saille, is apt to take on a tribalistic quality. But most credit must go to “The Mark of the Devil”’s vocals. At times they gurgle and moan like Attila Csihar’s famous contributions to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. But they offer more than this. On Vintage Black Magic, murky textures of church organ and oily guitar scuzz give way to a brilliantly deranged invocation, with “Mark” assuming the role of weird preacher bellowing “To the East and to the South, to the North and to the West, Come! Come! We call Thee forth!”. It really sends a shiver up the spine, before the track spirals into a dissonant, hissing, black-doom climax.

Cultes des Ghoules, then, are masters of that much-priced black metal intangible- atmosphere. Henbane, all told, is a combination of great down-tempo hooks, savage old-school black metal, and an all-pervading ambience of wrongness. Of course, this makes it essential listening!

Killing Songs :
Vintage Black Magic, The Passion of a Sorceress
Charles quoted 87 / 100
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