PICK OF THE WEEK: Celeste create black metal catharsis for bleak, bloodied world on ‘Assassine(s)’

Darker days are upon us here in the Western hemisphere as coldness spreads its reach across the land, and opportunities for pure light are not as plentiful as other times of the year. That often sends people into a seasonal depression, and on top of that is our current reality in which we can’t seem to escape, making us relive hell over and over.

While not necessarily focused on those topics, French black metal assailants Celeste create music that always seems to align with when things are at their bleakest. Their music identifies with that chaos and frustration we feel and can help flush it out of our systems which they prove again on their great new record “Assassine(s),” their first for Nuclear Blast and sixth overall. The band—vocalist/bassist Johan Girardeau, guitarists Guillaume Rieth and Sébastien Ducotte, drummer Antoine Royer—demonstrate that identification to darkness when they play live as they perform with no lights with the members wearing headlamps that beam red light, the only illumination provided. It makes sense because it enables you to concentrate on the music and lock into a mind frame to confront the pain and misery that have become too much a part of your DNA. This is catharsis through pain.

“Des torrents de coups” lands from the atmosphere with shrieks snarling and vicious, yet spacious playing that seems aimed to do ample damage. Gazey cascading increases the moisture while burly melodies are piled on thick, blasting out with raw emotion. “De tes yeux bleus perlés” is heavy and lumbering as a raucous pace lays waste, and a hardcore-style bludgeoning adds bruising to your collecting wounds. The band scrapes at your psyche as sorrowful, gutting guitars work their black magic, leaving you bleeding in the mud. “Nonchalantes de beauté” delivers a sharp black metal sheen and vocals that grind, going darkly melodic and borderline dreamy. The vocals cut a path into thick soot as the fires spread, and the final blows rob you of consciousness. “Draguée tout au fond” explodes with heaviness as the drums are pulverized, and a chugging pace makes it feel like windmill blows are headed your way. Mournful riffs destroy any hopes you held as the playing rains down and washes away.

“(A)” is a whirring, misty instrumental with heavy synth making your vision blur, then the bass kicks in and thickens the bloody waters. Drums unload as the guitars glaze and sprawl, increasing the lather before bleeding away. “Il a tant rêvé d’elles” opens with the guitars aggravating flames and the raspy howls leaving red welting. The low end smashes physically and psychologically as the playing dices your safety, the guitars soar, and the final moments bask in the destruction it created. “Elle se répète froidement” awakens you with the drums clobbering and the riffs glazing amid torrential devastation. The pace comes unglued with the animalistic vocals ushering in the terror, gut-ripping intensity blows you back, and your senses are ravaged as the track bleeds away. Closer “Le cœur noir charbon” is the longest track here, running 7:19 and starting with guitars chugging and corrosive vocals. Calm and chaos proceed to do battle, with the latter normally coming out on top, and Emily Marks’ voice enters the fray, adding a new texture. The shrieks return and spit nails while the guitars shed flesh and blood, and the track scorches everything, leading to a pillar of smoke billowing toward the heavens.

Celeste’s art continues to grow more violent as time goes on, and “Assassine(s)” continues on the path they began to blaze a decade and a half ago. This band for too long has operated under the radar of so many, but those who have been along for the previous five records knew this storm was coming, and it’s absolutely glorious. Their union with Nuclear Blast should help them find more recognition, and hopefully the newcomers are ready to endure a storm of this savagery and magnitude.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/celesteband

To buy the album, go here: https://celeste.bfan.link/assassine-s

For more on the label, go here: https://label.nuclearblast.com/en/label/