CELESTE (FRA) – Assassine(s), 2022 🇬🇧
It’s no secret that in this house we get a lot of nourishment from an essential scene to understand the springs that move the most avant-garde proposals of the European extreme metal scene, such as the French one. CELESTE are no strangers to anyone who is used to diving into the stony waters of French metal, but Assassine(s) is almost certainly the album that will take them to a higher level of popularity, even with the risky nature of their proposal, having signed with the Germans Nuclear Blast and having a bet on Chris Edrich to produce the album, a regular in top bands of the current metal scene such as GOJIRA, TESSERACT, THE OCEAN or LEPROUS.
When reviewing CELESTE‘s discography, it is quite noticeable the leap in sound quality that they have made with their new offspring. This is normal when a band wants to grow and it is inevitable, therefore, that those who have been following them since their first album may be tempted to criticize the «neatness» of Assassine(s) if we compare it with the intrinsic rawness of CELESTE from those already distant Nihiliste(s) or Misanthrope(s).
In a way, and simplifying things a lot, things haven’t changed that much in CELESTE either. There are the lyrics in their native language and the certainly nihilistic and, at times, somewhat ambiguous message about personal relationships; the obfuscation of human beings with violence, almost as a natural tendency from which they cannot detach themselves and, in particular, in Assassine(s) they bring to the forefront the toxicity that can occur in interpersonal relationships, to the point of bringing out the worst in the human condition, from the perspective of both men and women. It is precisely the figure of women that has always been present in the band’s music and art. Assassine(s) is presented with another good cover to join its conceptual and visual art where the figure of the woman is shown from the point of view of suffering, all of the photographs make us think and reconsider from the very moment in which their visual impact becomes evident. My favorite in this sense is the photograph chosen for Morte(s) nées(s), but Assassine(s) by Myra Nedyalkova comes close.
Now getting to the musical side of what CELESTE offers us in Assassine(s), as the first seconds of «De torrents de coups» explode in our ears, every penny invested in the album is justified, and Chris Edrich‘s hand is more than evident. Powerful rhythmic base and very much in the foreground, exquisite treatment of the vocals, which without renouncing the characteristic acidity with which Johan Girardeau usually performs, is seen here in a more measured tessitura and with a clear intention of making the message understandable. It seems that the band now moderates the sludge side and strengthens the more post-hardcore-oriented one.
With the second cut, these sensations intensify. The opening bars of «De tes yeux bleus perlés» take us directly to the extreme groove of their compatriots GOJIRA but without losing sight of that much darker halo. In the rhythmic base, there are constant nods to the Duplantier brothers’ creations and this gives the album a brutal strength. The guitars do an exquisite job in the background. They are there, creating an unsettling atmosphere resorting to the new black metal where the French have created a school. In this way CELESTE assembles almost all their new songs as half-times, keeping a perfect balance between the most atmospheric part of their music and the most hardcore. If you have ever attended a concert of the band before this release, you will notice in their new releases that the band now doesn’t leave you so glued to the floor and there will be moments when even the staff will go wild in front of massive jaggedness like «Draguée tout au fond«.
Assassine(s) is an angry album, that is beyond any doubt, but there is always room for that instrumental track that the band usually titles with a lyric. In this case «(A)» is the most ambient of all the tracks included. Much more focused on the guitar work, where hardcore meets shoegaze, infrared beams of light scatter and sparkle in the darkness.
The intensity returns with the most accelerated cut on the album. I loved the power of «Il a tant rêvé d’elles» which shows that CELESTE, after many years on the scene, has now decided to take a step forward in its career without looking back. Here the band fearlessly embraces current references such as the aforementioned GOJIRA or DEATHSPELL OMEGA, creating a curious entity that will surely give a lot to talk about in the years to come. In the two tracks that close the album, they come closer to what they did in their previous work Infidéle(s), more oriented to the atmospheric part of black metal.
In general terms, we can summarise that Assassine(s) is a clear bet on the future for CELESTE. A before and after marked by the label to which they currently belong, betting on sound quality and a first-level production to the detriment of that more corrosive and extreme tendency of their first four works. In a way, this album is a continuation of Infidéle(s), where we could already see signs of this evolution, which is now much more evident. I don’t think CELESTE will look back to that more radical sludge, now that they have proven that they can sound really powerful without renouncing, in essence, the nihilistic philosophy of the band. They are still a difficult proposal to assimilate, but they have opened wide the doors to a restless but more numerous audience, the one that yearns for bands like CULT OF LUNA or AMENRA.
Translated by Irene López.