In fulfillment of his apparent residency at Profound Lore records, underground metal sweetheart Paolo Girardi has lent his considerable skill to the debut record from Chthe’ilist, a death metal act as instantly recognizable as Girardi‘s paintings. Hailing from Canada and led by multi-instrumental shredder Phillipe Tougas – whose work on last year’s Serocs album was Fisting approved – the band’s approach to death metal looks to the past, but skips over Sweden and Entombed, headed straight for Finland and the beloved strangeness of Demilich. Like Artificial Brain, Chthe’ilist don’t just borrow from bizarre ’90s death, but incorporate it seamlessly into their sound, a complex, cobweb-cloaked and Lovecraft-worshiping blend of tech-death and doom that defies both genres.
The antithesis of digestibility, early tracks “Into the Vaults of Ingurgitating Obscurity” and “Voidspawn” clock in at seven minutes and flaunt the band’s avant-garde influence, but despite long songs and complex writing, Le Dernier Crépuscule manages to make a huge impact not based on its atmosphere but on classic metal credentials; sick riffs and incredible shredded solos. Though the band’s Demilich-isms are by far the most memorable parts of this album, the doom-laden, less overtly strange riffs in the bridge of “Scriptures of the Typhlodians” are no less effective at sending your head straight off your neck. “Voices From Beneath the Well” is outclassed in riffs by the surrounding material, but its flashy bass playing makes for a compelling listen nonetheless, guiding the guitars through a swampy six minutes of odd-timed groove.
Low points are few and far between for this album, but issues aren’t absent – just well-cloaked. Closer “Tales of the Majora Mythos Part 1” eats up twice the time of any other track and serves as a microcosm of Le Dernier Crépuscule as a whole; the solo at around 7 minutes in is among the album’s best, but the preceding clean-sung chants aren’t one of the bands’ strengths; they’re by no means poorly performed or out of place, but when they take center stage, the rest of the band seems to coast beneath them, and they rarely feel like an integral part of the song. Shaving a few of the more repetitive minutes from “Tales” would certainly strengthen the album’s outro.
In terms of production, I have nothing but praise for Le Dernier Crépuscule‘s cavernous, baking soundscape; each instrument cast in the dim between swaths of alchemical smog, it’s both suffocating and open due to a very trve use of reverb. Solos never fail to pierce through the mix, and the complex cymbal work and lively bass are never sidelined in favor of either riffs or atmosphere. The single downside of this excellent production manifests itself most obviously in “Tales of the Majora Mythos Part 1,” where backing synths – which sound better than the synths on most metal albums – ever so slightly miss the high mark set by the band.
Our own Diabolus in Muzaka described Chthe’ilist as “trying to be Demilich and Disma at the same time,” and in that respect, Le Dernier Crépuscule is an unqualified success. And though there are nits to pick and problems to find with this album, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than successful. Though I would have preferred for the energetic and Demilich-loving riffage of “Voidspawn” and “Into the Vaults” to play a bigger role in the album’s second half, one can’t deny excellence in writing, creativity, and showmanship when it’s this obvious. In terms of technical excellence and individuality, as well as the choice of aesthetics, Le Dernier Crépuscule can be most favorably compared to Artificial Brain‘s debut Labyrinth Constellation, and if it grows on me as much as that album did, there’s a good chance you’ll hear more about this album in December.