Cantique Lépreux is a french-canadian black metal trio from Québec and on the 18th of March they bestowed the scene with their first offering entitled Cendres Célestes which, assuming the online dictionaries don’t fail me here, should translate to something along the lines of “Celestial Ashes”.
Starting the album off with a short and aptly titled piece called Introduction, the band sets the scene of an icy wasteland. The slow and heavily distorted guitar riffs evoke the premonition that this album will leave the listener melancholic and throughly frozen and while this is not completely incorrect, the following track Le Froid Lépreux steps up to prove that this album will do so in a very dynamic and organic way.
In the first half of this song a hailstorm of turbulent riffs and urgent blastbeats envelops the listener as the majestic vastness of this album starts to unfold. Jaded, raspy screams echo out over the scene set by the instruments and especially in the second half the lush guitar tone is forged into riffs dripping with melancholy as the drumrolls keep breaking against their back like waves and the vocals reach a higher register, now a pained scream, before the song quickly fades out.
The next piece L’Adieu waits up with a quite traditional sound that is mostly prevalent in the drumming on this track. L’Adieu, unlike most of the other songs on this album, had to grow on me, but I came to appreciate it as I became more familiar with the album in general.
Next up we have what I consider to be where the album really starts to take off. Even though I think that this album was off to a really solid start, the second half just holds most of what I consider to be the stronger points of this album.
La Meute actually has a really powerful sound and feels like a streak of moonlight breaking through the cloudy night that this album is to me. Lots of high hats and reoccurring high-pitched guitarriffs break through the tumultuous storm of dark riffs and wretched screams to give this song a shade of passion and desperation.
On the next track the band breaks out the acoustic guitar to accompany the tremolo-picked riffs at the front. The guitars keep swirling and dancing around each other and create a sound that is as much foreboding as it is beautiful. Around the halfway point the band starts to turn up the intensity as dark walls of guitars and double bass rolls cascade onto the listener.
To my surprise the following song Transis actually has a rather wild guitar solo taking up most of its second half.
On top of that the last two tracks on this album bring in what sounds like keyboards in the background to further emphasize the mood of the compositions. I feel like the band did especially well with that on the last track, Le Mangeur D’os, where the keyboards build a strong foundation for the menacing and apocalytic atmosphere of this track.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this record. Cantique Lépreux made a very solid debut and even though they did not re-invent the genre or bring any particularly revolutionary ideas to the table, they managed to create a cohesive and atmospherically dense black metal record. I often felt like there was some really nice interplay going on between the members of this band. They all seem to be aware of what has to be done to complement each other and all the parts that make up the music just seem to click for this band.