REVIEWED: Seth - 'La Morsure du Christ'
There’s something about the sight of a burning church that’s always guaranteed to leave us black metal fanatics feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. But, as you’ve likely already gathered from the exquisitely rendered cover art above, this particular place of worship is an infinitely more grand and historic affair than the quaint, conveniently flammable wooden chapels we’re accustomed to seeing on the covers of the genre’s most controversial Nordic classics. Steeped in tradition, awash with fine detail, epic in scope and distinctively French… all characteristics that Paris’s beloved Notre Dame Cathedral once, rather ironically, shared with the national institution of a black metal band that goes by the name of Seth. That is, until a fatal blaze laid waste to its iconic medieval spire and roof back in 2018, ushering in a new era of godless heathenism that would prove instrumental in the making of this vicious, gorgeously orchestrated long-player. Ablaze with brimstone-scorched accents of tremolo, tautly muscled fretwork and elegantly manipulated atmospherics, theirs is a uniquely characterful craft that, despite its clearly discernible second wave origins, has since ascended to altogether dizzier heights of genre-transcending artistry.
Such excellence has, indeed, been many painstaking years in the making, with 1998 classic ‘Les Blessures de L'Ame’ establishing the fiercely individualistic blueprint for a sound that, some six albums and two decades later, has come to be nothing short of enthralling. With its machine gun-paced blasts and bristling tremolo riffs gathering flesh-scorching acceleration beneath expansive lines of finely sculpted fretwork that abound with stately majesty, there’s no doubt that title track ‘La Morsure du Christ’ was a suitably epic choice of first single. Delving still deeper beyond the album’s more prominent and instantly electrifying features, repeated listens reveal a darkly absorbing wealth of fine detail and goosebump-inducing atmospherics. From dizzying orchestral flourishes to evanescent flurries of piano whose crystalline accents dissolve into the ether like delicate beads of nocturnal dew evaporating at first light, it’s truly a wonder to observe the genre-defying alchemy with which these atmospheric details are seamlessly interwoven alongside the record’s extreme dynamics.
Among the many electrifying highlights of this blasphemous masterwork, ‘Sacrifice de Sang’ ('Blood Sacrifice') makes for an exceptionally arresting and compositionally layered standout, its opening slew of feverishly pounding beats audibly oozing ritualistic horror. This artfully crafted exercise in tension over and we’re promptly engulfed in a blackly intoxicating wealth of bass groove whose snaking, densely sinewy throes establish a stunning contrast against an icily cascading deluge of keyboards. Elsewhere, ‘Hymne au Vampire (Acte III)’ revels in rich layerings of melancholic choirs nimbly interspersed in amongst explosive episodes of spinal cord-snapping aggression.
Underpinning bewildering extremes of blackened ultra-violence and deathly atmosphere within a uniquely styled formula that’s as explosive in delivery as it is awash with compositional intelligence, ‘La Morsure du Christ’ is richly furnished with all the hallmarks of an instant classic. And though we’re barely five months into the year 2021, we’d like to see a black metal album capable of besting this genre-obliterating feat of sonic alchemy.
'La Morsure du Christ' is out now via Season of Mist