Within the near infinite shapes that music can take, there are some dark corners that, when explored, can delight, surprise, inspire, and, in some cases, terrify. This record manages to bring all these feelings to the surface, and in surprising ways. Celeste hails from Lyon, France, and Infidèle(s) is the fifth LP from the band, out September 29 on Denovali Records. As is often the case, traditional genre labels fail to accurately describe what this band does. There are elements of doom, post metal, black metal, and hardcore at play here, all mixed into a cocktail unique to Celeste.
I feel that a fair warning should be issued at the start of this review to avoid disenchantment later on. This is an obtuse record that demands the attention of the listener. When I first began listening to this album for the review, I made the mistake of playing it during other tasks to get a general feel of the auditory topography, and I just ended up lost in the proverbial woods. While many long-time fans of Celeste probably already know this, their music doesn’t sit well on the back burner. Now on to some tracks.
Opening the album is “Cette chute brutale” and it’s a driving, droning, abrasive composition that pummels the eardrums from the start. At just over four minutes, this song is economical in its approach, eschewing the fad of a slow burn fade-in that is present on many opening tracks. The searing vocals sit nicely atop the instrumentation and will send shudders down the spine. The double bass blasts are seasoned in throughout the song, providing punctuation and emphasis to the right amount.
As Infidèle(s) moves on, the percussiveness increases. The opening and prevailing riff of “Comme des amants en reflet” shows the band’s death metal influences, but the tempo stays decidedly medium, which keeps the tension high and the theme consistent. It’s when we arrive at track four that things take a more dissonant, violent turn. A quaint analogy that comes to mind is that the first three tracks are the equivalent of being dragged to your demise, and “Sombres sont tes déboires” is the formal introduction to it. The dread subsides and terror takes hold.
In a rare case for me, one of the standout pieces on this album is the six-minute instrumental (I). It’s a perfectly placed intermission that eases up on the tension and allows the record to breathe. Pacing an album of this depth is important and this was an insightful inclusion that really rounds out the listening experience. While there isn’t a strong melodic element on the album or this song, (I) is a lovely composition that I found myself coming back to again and again.
The closer “Sans coeur et sans corps” doesn’t change up the formula too much, but there is a hint of melancholy within the movements that isn’t as present elsewhere. The vocals are as strong and intense as ever. As the song moves to the final third, there is a sense of finality within the hints of melody. Closing out such an album in the right way is important and this song does so with panache. At the end of every listen through, I took a deep breath as if I was holding the air in my lungs as a reserve for some yet unknown event.
If my descriptors for this album seem mostly negative, that is no way a reflection of the quality and enjoyment I experienced listening to these songs. While there isn’t a cheerful note on the album, there is a joy in allowing Celeste to coax you into taking this journey. I would have enjoyed a little more dynamics in the songwriting and a dash of experimentation here and there, but that didn’t detract from my experience overall. Infidèle(s) is a dense album with monolithic vocals that will no doubt satisfy fans of the band. Just don’t forget to breathe.
Notable Tracks: “(I)”; “Comme des amants en reflet”; “Sans coeur et sans corps”
FFO: Oathbreaker, Altar of Plagues