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Ascéte - Calamites & les Calamités - 92%

Edmund Sackbauer, May 29th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, CD, Antiq Records (Digipak)

After the fantastic new album by Hanternoz in April 2021 Antiq Records presents the newest highlight of French black metal art. Ascéte are a band I have never heard of before. Consisting of four members they have been formed in 2015 and have tested the water since with some splits and demos. Now it is time to present their sound to a bigger audience and they do so in big style with their full length debut “Calamites & les Calamités”. My French has always been awful and I have especially never understood how those accent signs work, but I assume that the title of the album is some kind of name play. However, more than in the French language I am interested in some thrilling French black metal goodness, and Ascéte do a great job in giving me satisfy my hunger.

Their approach is quite different compared to their label mates Hanternoz. Where the latter have gone for a more folky approach with details like traditional instruments, chants etc. woven into the overall sound Ascéte come across a bit more modern and rely mainly of guitars and some keyboard samples to build atmosphere. Also the production is more direct and straight into the face. That being said both bands know how to forge some desolate and forlorn melodies and create easily flowing songs and an engaging tension arc over the whole album length. The music of Ascéte is dripping with grim emotion and saturated with cold aggression.

Fittingly you are going to find a picture of “Le Lébérou” on the stunning cover artwork, a creature haunting the unaware folk at night time according to the local lore. This dark motif is reflected in the character of the songs, which often feel like a trip to sinister and uninviting places. The band is able to bring out the feelings of ghoulishness and stark, ripping nightmares and a persistent ethereal presence underlined by the keyboard sections. On the other side there are those laid-back passages to calm things down a bit and give the listener a chance to take a breath, but the next attack is just around the corner so never feel too relaxed.

Anchoring to an energetic and somewhat modern, but absolutely traditional, black metal sound, they cast their nets wider into a deeper, more spiritually desolate territory already conquered by other more ambient driven bands. While Ascéte are a pretty new band there is attention to detail here as well as an abundant array of exceptional performances. The razor-sharp, baying guitars and the devastating vocal performance all combine to create an absolute pearler of a release. While Ascéte present a fierce and belligerent take on black metal in some ways, sometimes heavy on blast beats and tremolo-picked riffs but also with a lot of mid-tempo and a few slower sections, their ability to craft these kind of special moments and melodies is something that makes them stand out from the pack in my opinion.

Most of the songs are consistently well thought out and oscillate between fast and mid-tempo passages, although Ascéte have no problem to slow things completely down and implement ambient passages like e.g. in track number two “Danse de la Sénescence”. Once the break is over the blast start again and the guitars create an icy atmosphere, cutting through the heavy main chords. Other songs boil with energy in their entirety, the vocals maniacal in their ferocity and the music exploding from the speakers in a warlike assault. Like many other genre colleagues they have kept their magnum opus until the end, with the ten minutes long title track presenting the perfect song to round things off and confirm the qualities of this young and talented outfit.

The main vocals are harrowing as they’re hissed and howled with only thin traces of either human warmth or pain. The choral passages are a nice addition, underlining the variety provided by Ascéte. “Calamites & les Calamités” has a dense wall of sound that uses modern production values to help the listener appreciate the whirlwind guitar riffs and slow melodic lead accompaniment used here. Overall this album is nothing short of being amazing, and I can only urge fans of heavily hitting yet melodic and atmospheric black metal to no sleep on this one.