Album Title: La Morsure Du Christ
Label: Season Of Mist
Date of Release: 7 May 2021
My relationship with religion is no secret. I don’t believe in any God, a belief shaped over many years of personal experiences, mostly negative, some of which I have talked about within previous album reviews. It means that when I am presented with an album that is openly blasphemous, I don’t even bat an eyelid. If a band wants to make music to act as a vehicle to express these sorts of views, that’s their prerogative as far as I’m concerned. French black metal band Seth are one such entity, using their extreme metal as the foundation upon which to explore and proclaim their anti-Christian beliefs.
‘La Morsure Du Christ’ has a literal translation of ‘The Bite Of God’, but apparently, a phonetic translation of ‘Christ’s Death Is Certain’. Either way, it’s not a friendly title for the sextet’s sixth full-length album, and first for eight years. Friendly it may not be, but apt it definitely is, because this is an album full of aggression, spite, and vitriol, set to a musical soundscape to match. Or is it?
I say this because, on the one hand, Seth’s music is ferocious, raw, malevolent, and extreme. But, on the other, I can only describe it as absolutely beautiful. This might sound like a contradiction in terms, but please hear me out.
Over the years, Seth have suffered numerous line-up changes, meaning that today’s composition features only two original members, guitarist Heimoth and drummer Alsvid. They are joined in 2021 by vocalist Saint Vincent, bassist Esx Vnr, guitarist Drakhian, and keyboardist Pierre Le Pape. Together, however, they roll back the years and present the world with an album that harkens back to their earliest days and their debut, ‘Les Blessures de l’âme’, released in 1998. As such, this is most definitely a spiteful dose of uncompromising black metal. But there’s an almost disarming amount of melody to be heard within the seven songs on ‘La Morsure Du Christ’, be it at the hands of Le Pape’s keys, or via the guitar work of Heimoth and Drakhian. So much melody. I’m not even going to hide it: this is easily my favourite black metal album of 2021 so far.
I enjoy a dose of uncomfortable dissonance as much as the next person, but I like melody more if I’m honest. And what Seth have done so well here, is create something that is dark, evil, uncompromising, yet beautiful too. They prove on this record that you really can do both; that you don’t always need to be brutal alone to create satisfyingly extreme music, you can imbue the music with a certain catchiness and elegant melody and still find that it will melt faces and drive a knife through your blackened heart.
The opening song, the title track, is the perfect embodiment of what I’m trying to say. There’s no room for a chintzy intro, we’re straight into a furious assault of raw, fast-picked riffing and powerful blastbeats which are a feature throughout the track. But the furious attack is tempered by layers of keys that gives the music a symphonic tone, whilst the riffs themselves are subtly melodic, instantly engaging, and rather majestic. The voice of Saint Vincent cuts through the musical soundscape with a barely contained spite; there’s no doubting the anger and venom in his delivery, despite delivering his diatribes in his native French. The song changes pace nicely throughout, including the introduction of an eerie, quieter segment where things do take a turn for the slightly more discordant. But as the song regains its momentum, the elegant melodies return to juxtapose the overall extremity of the music.
‘Métal Noir’ follows in a very similar vein, where icy cold riffs, brutal drumming and caustic, raspy growls do battle with the atmospheric keys and instantly likeable melodies. There’s even room for a wonderful mid-song change of pace, where those melodies are accentuated by a slower mid-pace tempo that’s so catchy. There’s no doubting the viciousness of the music and the lyrics, but occasionally, given how grandiose and elegant the music feels, you almost forget that we’re neck deep in blasphemy.
My favourite track of the seven on offer is, without doubt, ‘Sacrifice de Sang’. It begins in a more measured manner, building up around some great drumming, slowly introducing the rest of the instruments along the way. The keys are even more pronounced than before, but they compliment the more melodic riffs rather than dominate them, creating an irresistible sound that’s equal parts terrifyingly evil and downright glorious. As always, there’s room for plenty of staccato riffing and blastbeats, but there’s also a more pronounced atmosphere that’s dense and suffocating at times, delivered in a way that’s utterly compelling.
The remainder of the album is equally as good, with each song providing quality, as well as moments to savour. ‘Ex-Cathédrale’ offers some of the fastest and most aggressive music anywhere on the record, with drummer Alsvid approaching warp speed at times. The riffing is stunning, the vocals are unhinged at times, whilst the subtle organ sounds link in cleverly with the song title. And I love the way that the track gently deconstructs towards the close to reveal strummed acoustic guitars at the death.
Then there’s the closing sequence to ‘Hymne au Vampire (Acte III)’, a continuation piece to compositions featured previously on early albums. In stark contrast to the unrestrained black metal cacophony that preceded it, we’re confronted with delicate acoustic guitars and subtle keys to play us out alongside the sound of a choir in the background. The melody is really beautiful, but the solemn, melancholy feel that emanates through the music is incredibly powerful.
If I’m being completely honest, I might have preferred a slightly stronger production, as the bass has a tendency to disappear from time to time. However, it is hard to complain too much because the sound is authentic of the late 90s and it does fit the music well. But that’s the only criticism that I have to offer because in every other way, ‘La Morsure Du Christ’ is stunning. I liked it on a first spin, as I sat open-mouthed in immediate adoration. And since then, I’ve just become ever more enamoured with this record. The imagery may upset some, but I am drawn to the cover artwork, as it is a stunning piece of art. And the lyrical content may upset in equal measure. However, I really don’t care. At the end of the day, I am reviewing the music and, on that score, Seth have created a stunning record. I don’t say this lightly but for my tastes, ‘La Morsure Du Christ’ is an incredible symbiosis of beauty and extremity, making it easily the best black metal album that I have heard this year so far, and maybe for some time before that.
The Score Of Much Metal: 95%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: