French blasphemers, Seth, take their name from the third son of Adam and Eve. The cover art for their latest album shows a smouldering Notre-Dame engulfed in flames and has a release date to coincide with the second anniversary of the devastating fire that destroyed one of Europe’s great cultural monuments. As one of the early bands on the roster of Season of Mist, the Gallic sextet are also an undisputed forefather of the native black metal scene in their country. Seth have the ear of the underground and the pedigree of a veteran band with 1998’s Les blessures de l’âme now recognised as a cult classic. But has the eight-year wait for a new record left them out of touch or re-energised and ready to go?
Those of you that like atmospheric black metal at incendiary levels of cathartic rage will delight at the incandescent aggression of the vocals, but the band’s willingness to incorporate gothic elements into their music means many of you should also find something to like here. The title track launches into a tirade of blast beats and molten guitar distortion from the first note and only lets up for a brief interlude of two-step posturing at the forty-second mark. A grand piano flourish near the end offers another respite, but the intensity levels are ferocious. ‘Métal Noir’ does the opposite. Take out the guitar distortion, and this one glides like a folk song. Melody is as important to Seth as sonic destruction on this track. You might even feel your eyebrows converging when the woodwind keyboard notes enter the mix at 02:45 seconds.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of La Morsure Du Christ is its appetite for bringing in outside influences to spice up the black metal core. The intro to ‘Sacrifice de Sang’ could be from The Cure’s Disintegration album with its ritual tom drums and minimalist guitars. But Seth are a metal band, and they soon provide an outburst of eye-bulging fury once the guitarist steps on the distortion pedal. Then they become the artist that make you want to stand at the top of a summit with your head and arms raised to the heavens. ‘Ex-Cathédrale’ is a case in point: fans of the latest Harakiri for the Sky record will find a kinship here. You might even detect a ghoulish undertone to ‘Hymne au Vampire (Acte III)’, as if listening to Tribulation. The blood-thirsty vocal inflections conjure the image of a sans-culottes peasant clubbing to death the unfortunate princesse de Lamballe outside the Parisian prison of La Force in 1792.
The few minor reservations you’ll have about this record should not spoil your listening experience, but the bass guitar needs to be louder in the mix. Swedish black metallers, Lord Belial, are an influence here, but the band do not draw upon their reverberating bass, nor do they look to other genres of metal to widen the faster parts beyond the frenetic strumming of dissonant chords. Wode’s latest album is an example how to combine these styles into one, although the guitar work here is far from dull. ‘Les Océans du Vide’ filters 80s gothic/post-punk chords through the hostile agony of Burzum and even reaches out to a cello passage at the end. You can’t accuse Seth of being one dimensional.
La Morsure Du Christ is a record that reveals its true essence after repeat listens. Always enchanting and never predictable, Seth can be proud of their latest effort. A new generation of metal fans are waiting to discover them.
Release Date: 07/05/2021
Record Label: Season of Mist
Standout tracks: Sacrifice de Sang, Hymne au Vampire (Acte III), Le Triomphe de Lucifer
Suggested Further Listening: Harakiri for the Sky – Mӕre (2021), Lord Belial – Unholy Crusade (1999), Wode – Burn in Many Mirrors (2021)