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Unclean, unholy and unapologetic - 83%

autothrall, January 14th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Hells Headbangers Records

I can confidently state that Cultes des Ghoules are one of the finest bands out there at channeling the primitive essence of black metal into something truly nightmarish and fresh, even if that 'something' requires a degree of patience for its occasionally languid plot and pacing. They offer a parallel to the conventional, a funereal escapism that reeks of ritual and authenticity, and Sinister, or Treading the Darker Path is one of the most evil records in their discography. Granted, not all of their output sits equally with me...their debut album and some of their shorter form releases still evade my attention span, but when they're on, like with 2013's Henbane, or this latest album, they offer an experience like few others can, some of the better primitive metal you'll ever encounter.

Raw, glacial paced riffs trudge along repeatedly here in "Children of the Moon", glazed in ominous if sparse organs that add much to the weight and creepiness without needing more than a single chord or two. The drums are played with a hypnotic, basic groove to them that will leave the draw the listener in despite their criminal simplicity. The vocals of Mark of the Devil can only be compared to Big Boss of Root, only here they are intonated as more of a pure aural ritual, like a tormented specter creeping through an abandoned manor or church, warning all of the woe at their own ends. But the Polish band is just as comfortable with the shoe on the other foot, picking up speed with "The Woods of Power" or the excellent riffing "Day of Joy" that shifts between the two. They can also twist this into something even stranger as in "Where the Rainbow Ends" with its truly ominous vocals, slim but catchy bass grooves and proggy structure that grows quite psychedelic and ritualistic in its depths.

Like many 'experiential' metal albums, you'll want to set the mood for this one...as dark as possible, your only light by moon or candle, at your most downcast and foul, and just breathe it all in, its sanguine and opaque haze of atmospheric cruelty. It's depressive, frightening and almost sounds like something you ought not to have stumbled across...whether in the woods, or in an alley, or a cellar being used for something unspeakable. A formidable offering from one of the few bands out there that truly sounds like it doesn't give a damn about letting any trends or joy rub off on it, and for me this is their second strongest effort to date.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com