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Given the monumentally cult status of French Black Metal and the opinion of someone I respect very much, I asked this band for a promo. Sent to me was a 7-song tape, a compendum of the band's recent efforts.
Not knowing any better and judging the books by its chapter headings, one would think Celestia to be a Gothic band ("The Fragrance of the Dead Rose", "Necromelancholic Reveries") the music within however is harsh Black Metal with incredibly grainy vocals, that manages to combine melody and underground aesthetics into one. The vocalist is none other than Kommader Noktu - the man behind Drakkar Productions.
Celestia tap a very melodic vein but with guitars being almost the only ingredient they stay well away from washed out cheese that often gets drained into the "melodic" category. On the other hand it seems to me that the band spent a lot of time pondering all kinds of misery in order to come up with the desperately pained phrases and guitar tones. The thin, trebly guitar literally sounds like the instrument is shedding tears. Underneath a similarly heartbroken bass moans along adding yet another strange aspect - it is not distorted. This happens to a perversely quick blastbeat, creating a bizarre contrast between melancholy and aggression, that is so important in Black Metal. The latter 5 tracks, being from a difference source than the first two appeal to me a little more. "Morbid Romance" is a standout among them, because of slightly less monotone dynamics and a great mid section featuring absolutely haunting synths (virtually the only spot they use keys), narrated by Noktu's incessant rasp. A great moment, it makes me think that the band is capable of a lot more than is presented on this tape.
It is an interesting and most importantly a sincere approach to making incredibly painful, emotive Black Metal, without the need for shortcuts to canned atmosphere through synthesis. Although not perfect, this is an interesting tape. Fans of flesh- slashing pain and misery will weep crimson tears for this.
The recording ends with a cover of Burzum's "Ea, Lord of the Depths" - a product of Grishakh's musical genius unwrapped into a punchy rock 'n roll number. Most welcome to my ears.
*originally published in the Gates of Hell webzine in 2001