Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cultes des Ghoules - Häxan (2008)

Häxan has been floating around for a few years already, but it has managed to spur enough interest in the underground that its seen some reissues, first on gate fold LP and cassette, and now once more in the CD format through Hell's Headbangers. It's thus far the sole full-length effort from the obscure Cultes des Ghoules, a crude and primitive Polish black metal entity who perform a style so bared to the bones that you could beat someone with this record as if you were a neanderthal. That's not to say it's all that impressive of an effort, but certainly its an effective one, with an approach not unlike the first two Barathrum albums, thick with strobing bass lines and fleshed out with raw, carnal guitars and hacking vocals.

The writing is incredibly simplistic, so much so that I found it to be the major flaw with the recording. Its obviously intentional, but the guitars are so familiar and effortless that it doesn't seem any expense was spared in actual preparation. The drums surge through periods of black, crawling doom ("Stregoica Dance") and tireless, roughshod blasting "(The Covenant and the Sacrifice)", and the bass tone is consistently feels like the driving force. Vocalist 'Mark of the Devil' adds quite a lot with his dire, disorderly presence, standing out so far from the supporting rhythm that you have to strain sometimes to hear that he's still on time. However, he's kind of cool sounding, and the band include a lot of samples, ominous chanting and ritual drum breaks to give the listener the impression that he/she is witnessing something no moral individual should set eyes or ear upon (I refer you to the endless tortured screaming at the end of the 16 minute finale, "The Impure Wedding").

Häxan is undoubtedly evil, curious and atmospheric, I only wish that they'd taken these core values and affixed them to guitar riffs worth a damn. Once in a while, such lewd and lazy note patterns will actually work out in the favor of an album, but this is sadly not one of those cases. They add very little except noise, and saunter about the more powerful bass. Outside of the samples and chants, there is nothing to take you by surprise. Considering how much Cultes des Ghoules sound like a decrepit, decaying old castle being animated into musical form, I was hoping something might leap out at me from around the corner. That I might find something in the attic. Or the basement. The everyman guitar lines detract from that possibility, especially when you've got a few songs over 10 minutes in length. The lyrics are cool, and the morbid atmosphere of the record is almost enough to offset this flaw. I'd certainly love to hear more in the style, but in the end I can't really see myself listening to this unless I want to creep someone out. I'll give it that.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10] (unravished by the Christ's light)

No comments: