23 Jan 2022 - Jonas
Black Metal / Post-Metal / Screamo / Sludge metal | Nuclear Blast | Release date: 28 Jan 2022
It’s been four long years since the French quartet, Celeste, released “Infidèle(s)”, but now they’re finally back with their aural mayhem, in the shape and form of “Assassine(s)”, their sixth studio album, which is also their debut on Nuclear Blast! I had the absolute privilege of experiencing a few of these new tracks live in concert last year, one of very few I had the chance to attend.
Once upon a time, I dubbed the veritable chimaera of genres that makes up Celeste’s sonic output “post-black metalcoreamo violence”. A mouthful, to be sure, and a bit ridiculous, but there’s just so much going on in their music that I felt defining them with only the one genre wouldn’t work, because with labels comes certain expectations. Simply calling them “black metal” just doesn’t cut it, and neither does “post-black metal”, or “blackened screamo”. You could, of course, just go through the entire spectrum, naming each one as you perceive them, but that takes time, so I just settled for this silly portmanteau instead. Silly, but in my opinion accurate. The question now is.. Does it still ring true, with Assassine(s) or is it time for a revision of sorts?
To be fair, I made this term up back in 2010 when they had just released “Morte(s) Nee(s)”, an album I hold very dearly and one that I rank as one of my favourites. They’ve released two albums since then, “Infidele(s)” (2013) and “Animale(s)” (2017, throughout which they’ve been anything but stagnant, having honed their sound and improved their production. It’s always been face-melting, but now it’s with surgical precision rather than through brute and relentless force. If anything, they’ve replaced the ‘emo violence’ influences of their earlier releases with something less chaotic and more refined. Post-black metalcoreamo, perhaps?
Five years have passed since their last release, and they’ve improved on their sound, yet again. The opening track, “Des torrents de coups”, feels more introspective than before, and less sprawled out like their previous material. It’s focused, yet heavy, like I’m wading through semi-viscous sludge of tar and pitch. The vocals feel more present than before like they’re not just additional noise to the cacophony, but more deliberate. The second track, “De tes yeux bleus perlés”, takes us back to the more familiar speed and intensity, albeit with a somewhat progressive twist. The third track, “Nonchalantes de beauté” also brings us back to familiar, yet different, territory from the second track. I really appreciate their penchant for bringing back sounds from past releases, only better, with more precision. Like they were rough sketches finally brought to completion, despite being great already.
The fifth track, “(A)” is entirely instrumental and dabbles with something reminiscent of blackgaze and I’m all here for it, starting out with what feels like a deep space synthesizer interlude before it starts building up to a soaring climax of blast beats and atmospheric tremolos. The last two tracks, “Elle se répète froidement” and “Le cœur nor charbon”, respectively, are the ones that really show you the massive dynamic range they can pull off without sounding contrived or all over the place. Everything just falls into place perfectly, like it couldn’t possibly have been done in any other way.
By fusing different, but somewhat adjacent, genres together seamlessly, Celeste have, yet again, shown that they’re at the top of their game with Assassine(s), seemingly on an impossible trajectory. It’s elaborate, even intricate at times, while still maintaining their signature sound and the sheer weight that comes with it. As a long-time fan, I couldn’t be happier with this album, and this just might be their best one yet.