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Cultes des ghoules - Häxan - 90%

UlfNylin, September 14th, 2011

The Polish band Cultes Des Ghoules does not only deliver as far as music goes, but also when it comes to visual presentation as well. This edition of their debut full length comes in the shape of a tape that is meant to resemble a book where you find different chapters for each song. Something that you don't see everyday, but very well-executed.

Cultes Des Ghoules' music is far more interesting than most "occult black metal" that you hear nowadays. Their music is ugly, primitive, and unadulterated, but still shows signs of diversity as far as tempo changes go. Worth to mention though is that most of the time it ranges from slow to mid-tempo.

The vocals that are spewed forth on this recording is what I guess you could call "the icing on the cake" since the vocalist clearly possess a wide range of vocals that conjoin extremely well together with the music. By far one of the most interesting vocals that I have heard in many years.

I have praised this one enough, so do yourself a favor and check out Cultes Des Ghoules.


(Originally featured in Funeral March, issue 6)

Utterly terrifying and unhinged - 90%

Memnarch, April 29th, 2011

It’s one of the, if not the most successful, black metal album of all time, and as a result it’s influenced more than a few albums since its inception in 1994. It is of course De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and Häxan is just another one of those countless albums that has its origins in that seminal album. Except it’s De Mysteriis... even more repulsive and grotesque bastard son. Every so often a band will come around and will divide opinions into polar opposites across the board, the sort of bands like Beherit, Von and Blasphemy, and although Cultes Des Ghoules may not be quite as primitive as these acts, they certainly contain the same aura of ugliness and inaccessibility.

This album caused quite a significant stir back in 2008 upon its original release, their brand of raw yet epic Lovecraftian black metal with its remarkably unpolished nature bore heavy resemblance to the aforementioned Mayhem album while containing a constant underlying atmosphere of such like bands such as Mortuary Drape et-all. It’s just not too often they come from a country like Poland though, more famous for its sawtooth blasting and nationalistic ideals.

As stated previously, Attila’s Mayhem are the biggest influence, just one listen to the vocals will tell you that that deranged, manic and obnoxious style can only be derived from our Hungarian crackpot Attila. Dynamic and sweeping, ranging from higher pitched rasping to low incomprehensible gargling, much more that just vocals, they’re downright terrifying and demonic and stir the atmosphere at will. The band has gone slightly over the top on the reverb at times, but on the other hand without it they wouldn’t sound half as evil, and the excess does help somewhat in filling out the void created by the lack of presence in the guitars.

The riffing while sometimes thin is devastating, ranging from slow funeral dirges to brief passages of a chaotic, crude and morbid mess. While the execution of the guitar work is remarkable, it’s the way Cultes Des Ghoules incorporate the bass into their sound. Where-as most old school bands tend to follow the Darkthrone school of thought and not bother at all with any significant bass contribution, Cultes Des Ghoules obviously prefer the Greek technique where there more bass there is, the better. The bass tone is pure filthy, surrounding the guitars and vocals like a thick cloud of sulphur threatening to overpower you at any moment with its noxious essence.

It's refreshing when a band such Cultes Des Ghoules come along and remind people that not all black metal has to be relentless blasting or full of sweeping keyboards, for they take the most hostile aspects of black metal and warp them even further. Slow paced black metal that invokes all manners of evil abominations. Black metal with an old school aesthetic and genuinely uneasy atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place as a soundtrack to a number of Lovecraft’s works, the Devil is most certainly alive here.

Originally written for

Rituals of a morbid miasma - 65%

autothrall, March 24th, 2011

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.


Something Different - 82%

UncleMeat, February 20th, 2009

Cultes Des Ghoules started as a side project of Necron and Sadist from the bestial black/death metal horde Bestial Raids. Although according to the band’s archives page, it appears they have left the band, and Cultes Des Ghoules has been taken over by four new members. I do not know what this means regarding the band’s future, but what I do know is that what Necron and Sadist achieved here, and on the preceding material, is truly something special.

After some killer demos and an excellent EP, Cultes Des Ghoules unleashed their first full length, Häxan, which is an exceptional slab of filthy, dark, occult black metal. However, this is not your usual modern day black metal album. Cultes Des Ghoules venture far beyond the copious amount of derivative and uninspired bullshit that plagues the modern black metal scene, and actually are more concerned with substance then image and stupid gimmicks. This is pure, unadulterated, raw black filth, executed with a level of authenticity rarely heard anymore.

A lot of the album is relatively slow to mid-paced, but still has enough fast sections and tempo changes to keep one from getting bored. Upon repeated listens, you will find yourself being sucked in by the album’s hypnotic nature, and the only chance of release you have from this trance is during music-less sample sections. This hypnotic effect that I am talking about does not only come from the sinister and morbid riffing, but also from the incredibly cavernous and dismal atmospheres portrayed by the album’s production. The vocals are a mid-range rasp, similar to what you hear in the Bestial Raids material, and are saturated with reverb and oozing with malevolence. The guitar tone is quite ugly, and has a sharp, piercing sound to it, which really shines during the slower sections. The bass is easily audible on here, another element which differs from a lot of other black metal. It has a filthy, fuzzy, sludge tone, which, like the guitars, really shines during the more atmospheric, slow sections. The drums are nothing special, but they are still damn effective on here and get the job done.

One element lifted from their work in Bestial Raids is the downtuned riffing. While a lot of black metal sticks to more high-registered notes and generally stays in standard tuning, Cultes Des Ghoules show no regard for this, and for the most part, stay on the lower and murkier side of things, even during the fast sections. However, they do mix things up enough to prevent unintentional repetition and monotony. The drums remain pretty simplistic throughout the whole album, but like the riffing, there is enough variation from section to section, especially the way the crash cymbals are utilized, to prevent stagnation. In fact, the simple, ritualistic drumming just adds to the overall mesmerizing atmosphere of the album. They fit perfectly.

I recommend this to anyone into primitive, sluggish black metal. However, do not go into this expecting the same sort of relentless savagery present in the music of Bestial Raids, as this is something entirely different. If you listen with an open mind, chances are you will not be disappointed.