‘Délétère’. A word which translates from French into English as ‘deleterious’. Aside from sounding distinctly metal, it apparently means ‘harmful’ or ‘damaging’. Bear this in mind. Addressing the band that is the subject of today’s review, Délétère partake in the affecting métal noir Québécoise scene. Also derived from this scene was 2016’s Thèmes pour la Rébellion by Forteresse – les Québécois take pride in their home and this quality is exemplified in their black metal which brims with their history and values. However, De Horae Leprae adopts a different approach; that of a concept album concerning a simple leper with an apparent worm fetish who becomes a plague incarnate. Suddenly, the band’s name makes sense as such an individual would certainly be harmful or damaging to the general population. But what of the music, I hear you cry?
Leprae has black metal at its core but also bears a strong melodic streak and more than a touch of the melodramatic. Theatrical, horror-influenced organs bookend the record on “Cantus I – Teredinis Lepra” and “Cantus IX – Oratio Magna” (I will be dropping the “Cantus” prefixes henceforth). They recall something like Ghost on downers rather than truly invoking dread, but confer a unique flavor to the proceedings and another layer which is engaging to disaggregate. The vocals bolster this quality as rasped snarls, pained wails and somber chants pepper the record but are more hammy than evil. However, the central black metal assuredly hits the mark for ominousness and aggression. The tremolo-picked guitars and blast beating drums are present and correct though the clear, melodic top layer evokes Mgła and Peste Noire in particular. These melodies are largely very sharp and I cannot doubt the riffing quality here. Indeed, my immediate thought on first listen was that this is what the new Uada should have been.
Buoying the melodic traits in the guitars are the strangely memorable vocal lines on “Teredinis Lepra,” “Inopia et Morbo” and “Atrum Lilium.” Harsh though the vocals may be, there are lines on these three tracks which sink in within one listen. They undermine the trvuness of Délétère even though they are fleeting in actuality but the hooks generated ensure that these tracks, in particular, demand repeated listens. These moments offer striking musical landmarks on the map that is the Délétère sound and as such, I cannot complain at their inclusion; indeed, these tracks have become my highlights. “Atrum Lilium” could be on a Song o’ the Year shortlist with its “Gloria!” chorus, great riffs and moody mid-song interlude.
I earlier made the point that, at a glance, this is what the new Uada should have been. However, on closer examination, Leprae suffers from similar issues. It has long tracks and is a long album, exceeding an hour. 64 minutes is a lot of black metal to sit through when it isn’t really inventive or compositionally dynamic. It would also be difficult to argue that each song justifies its inclusion when a few do nothing which isn’t done better elsewhere. I notice that I’m particularly disengaged for “Ichthus Os Tremoris” and “Figura Dysphilia” and, excepting “Inopia et Morbo,” there is a definite lull in the middle of the record. Tracks begin to bleed together and reaching the final few tracks where the quality is restored is not as satisfying as it could be had the record been pruned more heavily.
Even with these tracks which are clearly inferior to their surroundings, I emphasize that those surroundings are typically good and sometimes great. Délétère walk an intriguing line between furiousness and melody; between blackened sincerity and melodrama. This is perhaps unsurprising upon examination of the album’s concept. It’s certainly not so consistent as the other métal noir Québécoise that I have reviewed but it reaches great heights in execution of its story.