France may not be the first country that comes to mind when we consider Black Metal music, but it would be a huge mistake to overlook them. The ancient and storied nation has produced a vital subset of devotees to the blackened arts, etching their rightful place amongst their Scandinavian brothers. Burning the flame of Lucifer proudly and remorselessly since 1995, Seth returns with La Morsure Du Christ, their sixth full-length album and first such release in eight years. Shattering eardrums come Friday, May 7, 2021 via Season of Mist Records, Seth appears ready to conquer and lay waste. Bands that release music infrequently usually wait until they have something to say before making a record. For Seth, they have decided to pen the sequel to their mighty debut, 1998’s Les blessures de l’âme.
Boasting one of the finest album-covers to ever adorn a Black Metal record, Seth conveys their intent immediately on La Morsure Du Christ (meaning both “the bite of Christ” or phonetically as “Christ’s death is certain”). The blazing Notre Dame cathedral symbolizes the dying throes of the Christian religion, seen through the eyes of these blasphemous Frenchmen.
Symphonic Black Metal can sound inauthentic if it isn’t produced correctly, but this is not a problem here. Quite the opposite, and nowhere demonstrated more effectively than on “Hymne au vampire (Acte III)” rife with speedy blasts and a slower, heartfelt midsection. Each instrument is clearly heard, while the voice of Vocalist Saint Vincent manifests with an enunciated shriek worthy of the genre’s better throats. Sung entirely in French, the gorgeous nuances of the language shine through. Saint Vincent brews sinister poetry which licks against the listener’s ears like the flames devouring the ancient cathedral. Acoustic guitar and a choir conclude this epic, reminiscent of the 1990s when Black Metal bands synthesized beauty into their cauldrons of darkness.
The swell of “ Les Océans du vide” melds impassioned vocals with a satisfying blast, boiling over with emotion and Satanic pride. The mixture of spoken word and shouted instead of shrieking passages lends substantial weight to the proceedings. The keys in places are reminiscent of progressive metal, all while being underpinned by a relentless blast beat attack. Seth build and release tension effortlessly, manipulating tempo and raising the overall dramatic effect of the material in the process.
The seemingly formulaic approach to songwriting works implicitly for Seth, as the scathing beauty in “Metal Noir” (an anthem if there ever was one) swells the blackened heartstrings with its obvious ode to the shadowed realm of Black Metal. Additional vocals in some of the verses boost the prideful and even arrogant flavor of the music. There is no frippery here, just a gorgeous lance to the heart of Christendom.
Remaining pedal to the medal throughout its length, Seth concludes their opus with the incandescent “Le Triomphe de Lucifer,” again enriching their song with tension in the form of breaks in the onslaught for choral arrangements and a calmer revving of the engines before the intercession of speed and drama throttles the listener once more.
Undoubtedly one of the stronger releases of 2021, Seth shows that by letting their songs breathe and flow, by naturally imbibing from the ether all the tropes and effects which work when they are done with passion and reverence, Black Metal does not need to be focused through any other musical or ideological lens but that which spawned it. Cryptic Rock gives La Morsure du Christ 4.5 out of 5 stars.