The pages of orthodox scripture and pathologically nihilistic doctrine spell out a rendering of opposites hewn in harmonious blood, a meeting of contrapuntal dissonance spilling and soaking the followers gown in drying crimson, a downward pooling hiss as they greet in dragging motion adhering where any existent void would call for potency. Zealous are the sated, anhedonist are the long-parched, each drying moment building their resistant values upon separation of twisting dagger from limitless flesh. Divine trumpet calls for silent judges lost in remission to gift all with everlasting fire, dissolve the world into watery ash, and leave as tombs the bones of duly deceived sheep. What clarion howls broken and final in its summon comes a decade conjured, a dragons breath stinking of camphor and trimethylamine without poison, pestilence, or fire to hurl. On sacrificial pulpit arrives spectre glowing azure with blackened eyes pouring over desolation, seeing only freedom from duality in his glorious harvest he pries the thorned crown from the martyrs dried husk in recitation of the spell that would call the end and the darkness complete. Through great streaming serpentine incantation a rattling authority chimes through obliteration as gusts of electrical distortion and hailing fire coil to form seven unholy chaotic paradigm to celebrate the order of all things hath Drastus preach within these final verses, our crown of blood erupts as the edda ‘La Croix de Sange’.
Materializing in various form for nearly two decades the work of French black metal musician Drastus (ex-C.Y.T., Flamme Noire) had reached the point of nigh masterpiece by 2009 with ‘Serpent’s Chalice – Materia Prima’ EP serving as elevation above the The Ruins of Beverast-eque alternation of bombast and ambiance found on Drastus‘ debut full-length ‘Roars from the Old Serpent’s Paradise’ (2005); A product of ‘industrial’ black metal ideologues beyond Thorns and Blut Aus Nord that would show promise of transcendence as the first decade of the artists black devotion would progress. A decade of silence finds Drastus in 2019, howling mockery from a pulpit of fire with a blasphemic wind of ‘avant-orthodoxy’ fanning the diabolical grandeur he would craft under hermetic seal. Though frequent iteration would damn the ever-shifting modern artist into mediocrity Drastus has retained core ethos and approach from inception in combining classic French black metal evolutionary traits with ambiance, intermittent clean vocals, and ruthlessly flowing streams of guitar finesse.
Stylistically speaking the music of ‘La Croix de Sang’ is contemporary of the finer Antaeus, Svartidauði and Deathspell Omega records within whatever rubric might connect their inherent flow of (grand) ideas, guitar techniques, and evolutionarily rich fidelity; This comes as a small surprise today as before I might have placed Drastus in a league closer to French contemporaries like Insane Vesper, S.V.E.S.T. (who likewise featured drummer Sad), and more recent Haemoth releases. There isn’t a grand divide between any of these artists if one isn’t keen on details but I see ‘La Croix de Sang’ as meticulous and triumphant on a different plane compared to previous. Preparation and insight were time well spent and I would go as far as to call this a great work in a fleeting, crowded space for music. I wouldn’t reach with that level of praise if Drastus was not a fine guitarist who defines each piece as distinct and valuable musical statement.
Not only is the guitar work pure finesse but it comes with an attack that would make any previous Drastus recording appear loosely achieved by comparison; Dissonance only comes when called for to achieve nightmarish dread amidst the greater whole of the performance. It creates a knot within the mind to consider the snaking intricacy of ‘La Croix de Sang’ arrangements. I am not clear if Sad (Chemin de Haine, ex-Inkisitor) has provided drums here or not but, I can say that their implementation has drastically improved compared to previous works, though there is some clear relation to ‘Serpent’s Chalice – Materia Prima’ in terms of composition centering around those rhythms in strict fashion. None of these parts of a greater whole are necessarily enough to hold my attention on their own, though. ‘La Croix de Sang’ arrived without warning just as I was preparing my thoughts on the latest Sinmara release, a similarly achieved being with different goals, and curiously enough it was the vocal presence of Drastus that pulled me away towards ‘La Croix de Sang’ instead. You might chalk it up to lack of experience with certain niche or stylistic features but I haven’t exactly heard a use of clean vocal like this (Bethlehem?), at least nothing as seamless and effective for my own tastes. It functions in a manner that convinced me to sort through Drastus‘ prose word for word and effectively elevated the listening experience beyond expectation. The amount of work put into this release became most obvious at this point as I paid attention to lyric, cadence, and Drastus‘ major strength in crafting transitional moments.
At some point I’ve appreciated the details of an album like ‘La Croix de Sang’ so much that to put it to words becomes a ridiculous list of ideas I’d become attached to, such as the groaning riffs a few minutes into “The Crown of Death” or the tremolo-picked jets of guitar noise that signal the conclusion of the fantastic opener “Nihil Sine Polum”. I will say that the respite that “Hermetic Silence” provides was often a point I used to pause and reflect (or even step away) from the album and collect myself for the imposing final fifteen or so minutes on the record. Though “Occisor” is probably my most liked track on the record its combination with the 9+ minute “Constrictor Torrents” went a long way in selling me on the full experience and that pairing creates such a fine finale to look forward to that I’d come back to the record far more than I’d usually indulge. There is something special here and I appreciate the work involved enough to give Drastus‘ second full-length a very high recommendation. For preview the full listen is most effective but I’d say start with “The Crown of Death” and then the duo of “Occisor” and “Constrictor Torrents” if you must see the peak before the mountain.
In the eyes of the first born, death. 4.5/5.0
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