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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

Sinister Intent - 90%

d00mfr0gg, November 28th, 2020

There’s something to be said for truth in advertising. Not only can album art give an idea of the music within, but sometimes the very title can hint at what’s to be expected. Polish black metal outfit Cultes des Ghoules aren’t even hinting at it with their latest release, Sinister, Or Treading The Darker Paths. The whole thing reeks of malicious intent, from the very first notes played to the closing wail of feedback at the end of the record. The cover art is disturbing as well—a withered, demonic hand menacingly grasping the hilt of a blood-soaked knife takes the forefront. A closer examination reveals its victim: a lifeless child, presumably whose ghost has been given to the bearer of the blade. Before the needle even drops on the record, it’s entirely clear what Cultes des Ghoules are trying to accomplish with their music.

The ritual begins with “Children of the Moon.” All of the band’s albums are only five tracks, with Sinister being no exception. Needless to say, it’s a ballsy move to use seven minutes on what is essentially an introduction, but it pays off. Setting the appropriate mood can be crucial, and “Children Of The Moon” does this in a way that highlights the instruments’ particular tones. The first note is a singular, ominous strike of the bass. Its wet, sickening sound reverberates through the air before it meets with the riff that carries throughout most of the song’s duration. The other instruments wash their way across the sonic landscape, the eerie pipe organs and the ritual chanting of the vocals play in and out and back and forth over the riff. The song’s purpose feels almost like the preparations to perform a ritual, which is almost a ritual in its own right. Cultes des Ghoules are building the altar on which they will worship and getting everything just so to provide maximum impact.

With preparations out of the way, Cultes des Ghoules begin to tap into the menacing powers they have been summoning and unleash them on “The Woods Of Power.” After a brief atmospheric introduction, a full-on blast beat barrage strikes. However, the true power on this track is not in a noisy onslaught of aggression. When that riff kicks in, the full demonic might of the band unleashes itself on the senses. An energetic, almost panicked riffing over the bouncing d-beat calls back to the Darkthrone school of black metal circa Under A Funeral Moon; the secret is in the breakout. The blasts and tremolo riffing build tension across the track, charging it with negative energy that unleashes like a sinister “HADOUKEN!” across the speakers. At the center of it all, the vocals are called out by the mad master of ceremonies as the magic of the music swirls around him. The riff repeats and repeats without losing its charm, giving it plenty of time to sink its teeth in before returning to another blast verse to recharge. The band experiment with the riff a bit as the song progresses, and it fits just as well over rolling kicks and a deep groove style breakdown. The bridge gives a chance for the keys to shine through for a spell, and the haunting breaths of the organ keep atmosphere levels just right. An extended outro brings the song to a close as the vocals cry out an epic conclusion to the sermon on the glory of taking a life for power.

The ode to the primitive black metal of old continues on “Day Of Joy;” the Celtic Frost influence is undeniable, with Cultes des Ghoules providing their twist of extending the riffs to the point of worship. The namesake sinister atmosphere never relents, continuing through “The Serenity Of Nothingness,” a track that, like the album opener, pulls double duty of building up anticipation for the ensuing song while still being a fully-fleshed-out tune on its own. The rhythm section really gets to shine through towards the conclusion of the song, with a tribal rhythm played out on the toms and ambient bass playing providing backing while the vocals, half spoken-word and half chanted, continue their evil preaching.

The album closer, the oddly titled “Where The Rainbow Ends,” pulls out all the stops. At a whopping 13 minutes, the song gives the band a chance to play with a lot of different ideas, however it feels disjointed at times. The individual sections are on their own excellent, but instead of coming off as a conclusion to all of the building the band has done throughout the record, it feels like a bunch of leftover ideas patched together. It’s not enough to hurt the album too much overall, but it does feel a bit out of place. Luckily the final section works for a fitting conclusion to Sinister, it just could have been a smoother ride to get there.

With Sinister, Cultes des Ghoules manage to pull off one of the best songwriting tactics in all of metal: give you the riffs that you think you could just listen to over and over – and actually do it. The latest album holds well with the band’s legacy, and, despite a few hiccups at the end, has the riffs to keep fans of the original spirit of black metal coming back for more.

Originally published at yourlastrites.com

Life becomes a futile desire. - 90%

GrizzlyButts, November 26th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Hells Headbangers Records (Bandcamp)

In their first four formative years Polish black metal project Culte Des Ghoules developed a swollen, croaking black/doom metal hybrid all their own taking from the true mania of early Barathrum, the furious howl of Mayhem and the bass driven occult majesty of Necromantia. In the ten years since ‘Häxan’ (2008) it seemed every release from the Kielce born quartet sought to follow a linear path of ‘more, and better’ as the gorgeous raw ambitions of ‘Henbane’ (2013) were entirely doubled and fully polished into an incredible beast of black metal on the triple LP ‘Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love’ (2016). There was nowhere they could possibly go from there without becoming redundant and/or belabored in terms of extremist composition that amounted to 15-30 minute tracks. So, they didn’t build upon their previous work for this fourth full-length and instead sought the deepest caverns of early 90’s black metal insanity and aimed for cruel, boundless fury on ‘Sinister, or Treading the Darker Paths’.

To say that ‘Sinister’ devolves back towards the atmospheric horror of ‘Odd Spirituality’ (2007) EP and immediacy of ‘Häxan’ isn’t entirely far-fetched. The influence of Mortuary Drape is no secret throughout Culte Des Ghoules existence but this is perhaps the first record where it was more than a suggested atmospheric similarity as the thrash/speed metal riffs the band burns through on tracks like “Where the Rainbow Ends” feel entirely relevant to the observation. Paired with the return of Urfaust-esque haunting vocals and a guitar performance on par with the best of Negative Plane and compatriots Doombringer it becomes easier to understand what thickness of atmosphere drives this album but the stretches of raw-fisted Katharsis styled guitar work are where I felt the deepest connection with this unexpected venture from Culte Des Ghoules.

The sound is not a huge stretch from the clanging tones of ‘Spectres over Transylvania’ (2011) EP but ‘Sinister’ absolutely cranks up a certain supernatural reverb in the mix, which again comes from Mgła and Kriegsmachine frontman Mikołaj Żentara. This echoing presence along with a more rabidly paced guitar performance makes for an exciting raw black metal record with what I’d consider fairly bloated song arrangements (that occasionally amount to a gluing of two tracks together) yet each track at least circles back around their main theme once or twice. What I quickly realized when browsing through Culte Des Ghoules‘ discography was that the further under an hour each record was the more effective their relatively complex arrangements were. At 55 minutes I am so pleased with the content of the 10-12 minute set of five tracks that comprise ‘Sinister’ that I can overlook how much it drags on during a full listen.

Adventurous vocal performances, odd song structures and the black/doom at the heart of Culte Des Ghoules‘ sound all contribute to a deeper unsettling, unhinged tone that reminds me of Side A from Nåstrond‘s album and the first Mortuary Drape record minus all of the rock guitar towards the end. But for all of the crazed performances nearly half of the album (“Day of Joy”, “The Serenity of Nothingness”) almost appear as progressive black metal or some form of ancient tribal doom metal as they play out and this finds the transition between sides more surreal but slightly more dull. The final track does quite a lot to wake up the whole of the experience and its rapid fire witching metal riffs, Necromantia-esque snarl and chanted vocals and it fades out into relatively pointless atmospheric jamming until fading out. Despite finding a fair amount of bloated compositions I understand the atmospheric value of these tracks thanks to a fair number of repeat listens.

As long and occasionally bland as ‘Sinister’ is the whole of the experience is excellent material for repeat listen. There are satisfying textural aspects in terms of guitar sounds and a wide range of vocal expression that all lend well to revisiting the piece. This is the draw for any and all Culte Des Ghoules‘ releases, that they write and grow in the mind like a strange parasite with greater familiarity. Once I had felt the atmospheric sensibilities of and absorbed the powerful guitar work within ‘Sinister’ I had worked through a good 9-10 full listens. This speaks to the curious and ‘weird’ sound not being all that challenging to my ears but also brings praises for its twisted arrangements and wandering rhythm guitar interest. The most effective example of this dynamic interest comes with “The Woods of Power” as it cedes the moaning waft of “Children of the Moon” into the most directly savage punch of the album. The album wanders in between blackened doom and raw black metal from that point with various points of combination highlighting the full listen.

Is it simply a ‘back to our roots’ sort of release after they’d gone too far? In some ways it is a shedding of layers but Culte Des Ghoules haven’t lost what made them interesting to begin with in constructing ‘Sinister’. Because I lean in with interest to unique black/doom examples my recommendation is fairly high and I would suppose than folks who jumped on board with ‘Coven’ may struggle with the less ambitious arrangements and shorter pieces. Regardless of where you land upon ‘Sinister’ I believe the strong guitar work and truly compelling vocal performances will be of interest to most any black metal fanatic. There is little sense in offering preview of such a dense album with so few tracks but if you do need to get a representative sample of its sound and style “The Serenity of Nothingness” offers a grand swath of stylistic changes while “Where the Rainbow Ends” and “The Woods of Power” will answer the call for riffs otherwise.

Attribution: https://grizzlybutts.com/2018/10/29/culte-des-ghoules-sinister-or-treading-the-darker-paths-2018-review/

Finding delight in wickedness - 90%

Cosmic Mystery, November 2nd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Hells Headbangers Records (Bandcamp)

Cultes Des Ghoules approaches the altar again, this time to confess the many crimes they have carried out on their latest criminal season of sorcery. If you thought Henbane was a masterpiece then I don’t know what words of praise you will be able to justly attach to Sinister, or Treading the Darker Paths. This is a total nightmare occurring within the shadows of the occult. Currently this “sinister” Cultes Des Ghoules release joins my top albums of the year which is a very small list of exceptional 2018 releases. Listen to the sounds of the serpents as they hiss from the tunnels below. Being able to cement your status within the underground and keep relevance 13 years later is not an easy task. Some bands release a few demos an ep and then suddenly leave because of life matters or to perform duties in other bands, thus causing the project to fade with time. Whilst others struggle to find their place whilst putting out releases as fast as Mcdonald's prepares a burger. Cultes Des Ghoules has remained active and relevant by releasing albums that have evolved in time, with each new entry being added to their collection of prominent transgressions, showcasing greater musical understanding and improvement without sacrificing their foundation.

This contaminating touch of evil opens with some kind of chanting over a repeating guitar chord backed by a single drum flow. Like a vile tale of terror it closes with what sounds like a proclamation. Strangely enough, “The Woods of Power” opens up similarly to that of something I’ve heard before by a popular band (I don’t want to mention the name but I think most will recognize it once heard) then changes its tempo (and there's much of that happening on this record). More vocal tuning if you will are inserted with humming and agonized screams. Then comes Cultes Des Ghoules clawing from the grave with 2nd wave black metal drumming that fades into first wave bestial war metal snare pounding. The vocals here sound wretched now, like a witch (the one with the pointed hat, crooked nose and pimpled-out face) and don’t have any specific line of flow, its words pelted hatefully and hysterically from a necromancer that is pissed-off his only wand broke, plus he forgot to collect a frog from the lake 10 miles away to add to the cauldron of spells (that’s a shitty day). Suddenly one of the most egregious riffs jumps out of the boiling kettle to play with the unexpected change in drumming. That riff is superb, the way it pounces on you without warning keeps you hanging on the edge of every note in anticipation of more surprises (and there are plenty more, but I won’t reveal them). “Day of Joy” continues along the same path (guess who got an new favorite wand and a box of tadpoles for Samhain); the madness is elevated, thrash metal/punk drumming intertwine with each other to initiate the celebration; more tempo changes ride the ferocious HM2 pedal effects in the background, the bass receives brief moments within the spotlight amidst the frenzied barking and rambunctious clashing of vocals, drums and guitars. Approaching the end, “Day of Joy” wanes into the groove of doom metal bringing a calm closure to the excitement of the jamboree. The remaining tracks continue the momentum flawlessly, they occupied any gaps I thought may have needed representation. “Where the Rainbow Ends” is the peak of lunacy and pandemonium expressed on Sinister, or Treading the Darker Paths; by the title of the track all I can say is expect a grandeur denouement.

For a record that has so much going on musically, much credit must be bestowed upon those responsible for the mixing and mastering of Sinister, or Treading the Darker Paths, every instrument can be heard clearly and there are no clumsy sections on any particular entry where you experience disharmony or sudden drowning and popping in sound; balance is given much emphasis on Sinister, or Treading the Darker Paths where the production is concerned and one would expect no-less coming from legends such as Cultes Des Ghoules. The artwork is a pleasing piece, I saw the t-shirt representation on sale at Hells Headbangers and immediately felt as though I needed it. Currently Sinister, or Treading the Darker Paths poses a threat to the records in my top 10 of 2018 and is gaining positions with every listen. This practice by Cultes Des Ghoules is arguably their best, they are certainly one of the bands that has the best interest of the underground at heart.

The pleasures of evil/sins pouring from the cauldron:

  • “The Woods of Power”
  • ”Day of Joy”
  • ”Where the Rainbow Ends”

    Originally written for www.MetalBite.com
  • Sinister Cults - 75%

    dismember_marcin, October 16th, 2018

    Unlike many of my colleagues or people, who I am in contact with, I personally am not such a huge enthusiast of Cultes des Ghoules music. I have respect for them, appreciate some of the stuff they recorded, but I'm far from ejaculating on every sound of Cultes des Ghoules name. To say the best about two of their latest releases, "Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love" bored me and "The Rise of Lucifer" was forgettable as hell. So, I wasn't really looking forward to listen to "Sinister, or Treading the Darker Paths", but since I got a copy of it pretty quickly, I sat down one night and started to listen to it.

    And I do not regret this sleepless night. Maybe the correct conditions, which were surrounding me, helped, but this album definitely speaks to me much better than the previous full length. It's definitely an impressive and worthy piece of obscure, morbid black metal and if you're a fan of the previous Cultes des Ghoules recordings, then I am sure you will worship this new one as well. For me, this is a solid and interesting album. But problem with Cultes des Ghoules, also with "Sinister, or Treading the Darker Paths", is that the fragments of pure genius are mixed up with some dull and forgettable parts. So, if we have an album, which is 60 minutes long then I would gladly cut it up to some 40 minutes max and get a spectacular record all the way through.

    Anyway, a lot of this music is just great black metal. Very obscure and eerie sounding, with some fantastic riffs and bass work - which remind me the old Greek scene a bit, to be honest. Al these fragments, when Cultes incorporates keyboards (or maybe something like pipe organ) is absolutely spectacular and an instant goose skin (listen to "Children of the Moon"). It sounds incredible and the atmosphere, which is created is exactly what I love to hear from such bands. Aggressive, simplistic and utterly harsh black metal dominates on the album though - and as I mentioned, it has its better and worse moments. Sometimes they come up with absolutely unique ideas, arrangements, which really put the band away from the common and conventional black metal. And obviously set up the bar high. Even the vocals are not always in the typical black metal shrieky vein. They're more like howlings, I think. The best effect comes, when the music is slow paced, to be fair. I'm thinking here especially about "The Serenity of Nothingness", which is just superb song. It's like Necromantia mixed with Tulus, Master's Hammer and fuck knows what else. The whole “Woods of Power” sounds even like Beherit from “Drowning Down the Moon”! Anyway, the result is excellent, especially with that vicious, dark and ghoulish atmosphere. I think “Day of Joy” is the only song, which I would really delete from the album. Obviously it’s only my opinion and some other may find its more chaotic, faster sound as more interesting... But opinions are as many as ass’ holes. And who cares for other than your own. To sum it all up, it’s good album. Definitely worth to get, so if you’ve been into Cultes music before, you will love it.

    Standout tracks: "The Serenity of Nothingness", "Children of the Moon"
    Verdict: 75/100