Ascète – Calamities et Calamités Review

I’ve been on a bit of an Antiq Records kick lately. Every time I see the word emerge from the mists of the promo pit, my interest is piqued and I grab the promo, often without checking first to see if it’s something I’ll like straightaway. Ever since Véhémence captured my heart back in 2019, I’ve been trying to keep an eye on this label from the lands of France. I’ve received a few heads-ups1 about Calamites & les Calamités, the debut full-length from the label’s countrymen Ascéte. Sporting black metal of a style that fits right in with their label-mates (Hanternoz comes to mind as a recent example), Ascéte have the sound of a fresh band eager to mark the map. How does their debut hold up?

Right out the gate, Calamites & les Calamités makes a point of setting itself apart; bells and cymbals jingle softly in the background, a woman croons and then — boom. Black metal has arrived. A jarring cacophony of guitars and pounding drums take the reins, but the most interesting part of the song by far is the chorus, where vocalist L’Cul-Terreux Torve, sporting a raspy kind of shout, joins with those clean female vocals. These are two styles that could not possibly be more opposed to one another, coming together in a bizarre harmony that, against all odds, works. Ascéte aims to thrive in chaos. They are at their best in songs like “Corroux du Lébérou,” a galloping frenzy with a catchy guitar lead and a good sense of pace and flow that showcases the band’s strengths. I love the ever-audible bass guitar, the jagged rhythms, and the shifting drum patterns that keep the song lively.

“Corroux du Lébérou” is maybe the most straightforward song on the album, and unfortunately, that’s what sets it apart for me. My main issue with Calamites & les Calamités is that it is a very disjointed album. Most tracks are around the seven-minute mark for length, save for a two-minute interlude towards the end of the album (“Héritiers de l’Austèrité”) and the ten-minute closer. In many cases, however, tracks feature interludes that are entirely at odds with where those songs begin. “Danse de la Sénescence” for example, has a strong, galloping pace to it that is set aside partway through for a strangely upbeat, almost folky acoustic piece. It isn’t bad at all — I actually really like the song! — but it does feel out of place. The same is true of the opener — the clean female singing with the hoarse, harsh growls was a really neat idea that never appeared again after that first track. In this sense, Ascéte sets an expectation and then moves onto the next idea as soon as they can, which makes for a jarring listen.

All this is to say that Ascète clearly has a lot of ideas. A great many of of them are good ideas too. Calamites & les Calamités, however, feels like a much longer album than forty-seven minutes because it is constantly shifting and changing; there are very few straightforward songs. Instead, the band tends to prefer a progressive-feeling black metal theme that constantly changes gears as time passes. “Sorlodais Huroux” is the perfect example, a rolling black-ish, traditional-ish, power-ish metal rumble that sets off at a gallop and doesn’t stop… until about two minutes in when the guitars stop, a narration begins, and the song takes on a somber, slow, deliberate picking style for a brief period. It shifts back as quickly as it comes, and I can’t help but feel that Calamites & les Calamités could have been a much shorter, leaner, and more exciting album if it didn’t have so much going on all the time.

I want to stress that I don’t think any of this is at all bad, but it does make for a somewhat confusing listening experience. Ascète have created an atmospheric sort of album, filled with neat ideas, new approaches, and plenty of strong metal moments. The whole simply doesn’t come together properly for me. I spent a little bit longer with this album than I typically do with my promos, because I can’t shake the feeling that there is something awesome here that I’m just not “getting.” For now, however, the plan is to remember Ascète and look forward to the next one.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Antiq Records
Websites: |
Released Worldwide: May 28th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Is there a plural for “heads up?”
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