a beautiful country, civilised people, amazing food, wine and brandy, countless tourist attractions, you do not think of france as producers of extreme things. but then you have movies that explicitly show a woman perform caesarean section with a huge pair of scissors and more vulgarity that make even goriest hollywood horror flicks squint. then you have antaeus. arkhon infaustus. vi. aosoth. throane. you have deathspell omega and blut aus fucking nord.
oh, and novae militiae. gash’khalah is the second release since being founded in 2009 and the incognito band has all the clues of being a supergroup / side project. as the cover work and the inevitable religious horror soundtrack of a short intro imply, we are to be treated a delicious main course of blasphemous black metal. still, you cannot be too prepared for the proceedings. the album opens up ever so slowly and heavily with my distant favourite “the chasm of the cross”. the first thing you notice is how “every” instrument and vocals are distorted towards a single sound. that sound, however is far from a generic “transylvanian hunger” rip-off lo-fi buzz, but a resounding and ear numbing cold industrial wall. and within that explosion that keeps on exploding, each sound is still clearly audible. i know this makes little sense but novae militiae has obviously managed that.
the vocals take centre stage here. the heavily distorted and double-tracked semi guttural shrieking rarely takes a notch down, except the rather clean / operatic singing on the amazing 6th track “black temple consecration”. an interesting trick, vocal lines are composed to be somewhat longer than you’d expect from the scale, or so it feels, and that effect just intensifies the overall atmosphere and feeling of horror and despair. on top of the music is the pounding (i couldn’t just write “drums”). except the most part of the opening and the 5th & 7th tracks, you have a downpour of heavy battery; double crosses and blast beats throughout, executed in military discipline and mixed to sound as industrial and uncomforting as possible.
a worrying number of newer black metal releases that lean towards a chaotic atmosphere tend to treat guitars as a layer, therefore sadly neglecting original riff/tremolo composition. now, i have written about the vocals and drums first, for those reach your ear canals before the guitars do. luckily, the album includes so many delicious black metal riffing / tremolo that you do not simply get bored from the constant industrial / military attack. while some riffs are boldly in-your-face, most of them lay as hidden treasures for subsequent listens.
gash’khalah is an uncompromising, unrelenting black metal gem with a clear direction and attitude. clearly one of the best releases in 2017 so far.