Shezmu – À Travers Les Lambeaux Review

The myth of Prometheus is often remembered for its shocking punishment (poor guy’s guts eaten out for eternity), or its emphasis on knowledge in place of conformity. However, to approach it from the perspective of the sufferer, much like the myth of Sisyphus, carries with it an element of insanity. To suffer eternally day after day, hour after hour, for an act of subversion? We find ourselves in the story, desiring to rise above our shortcomings and crowds to lift a middle finger to the heavens in holy defiance, regardless of the cost. Even if we go to hell, we go on our terms; even if Zeus strikes us down, we go down fighting.1 We go screaming into the night, driven mad by the divine, but we paved our own path. Shezmu, named after the Egyptian god of wine and slaughterer of divine beings, knows this.

Quebecois trio Shezmu, formed in 2016, already sports a startup of two EPs and a demo compilation, ultimately culminating in their first full-length, À Travers Les Lambeaux.2 I hesitate to label the project, because if there existed a Venn diagram of black, death, and doom, it would be smack dab in the middle. Sporting a variety of spiraling riffs, cavernous roars, and spastic songwriting, it’s a foray between genre tropes, tied up in a concise 32 minute offering. Feeling simultaneously like a deathier The Ruins of Beverast, a blackened Ataraxie, and a doomier Behemoth, and somehow channeling the pitch-black blasphemous madness of Desolate Shrine throughout, À Travers Les Lambeaux is a stellar first outing, let down only by its youth.

Shezmu is at its best weaving relentless pummeling into its sound, sharpening an edge of dissonance through its creative melodies that invokes an aura of madness. Tracks like “Cérémonie Magique pour la Bataille de Megiddo,” “Les Secrets des Ziggourats,” and “L’Arrivée Des Temps Déchus” revel in gut-punching blackened death riffs that morph into ominous downtuned tremolo, underlined by blastbeats and guttural roars. The title track and “Ode À Hathor” also feature some doom-inflected riffs that would feel right at home in The Ruins of Beverast‘s Rain Upon the Impure, while also channeling Shining in tortured howls that float atop. What’s particularly impressive throughout À Travers Les Lambeaux is its ability to seamlessly flow between crushing death metal and scathing black metal with ominous doom passages strewn throughout. This is shown in its piercing yet brutal sound, done through a spiraling and dense melodic blueprint of Desolate Shrine‘s Sanctum of Human Darkness. Tastefully executing it via a thick and cavernous old school death metal production a la Cruciamentum or Tomb Mold, it’s a punishing listen that never feels overlong.

What makes À Travers Les Lambeaux somewhat questionable is not necessarily execution but consistency, mainly in tracks “Interlude – La Rage” and closer “Lex Talionis.” Both are very well done, but their tones are questionable in terms of the album’s sonic palette, and their effect will largely depend on the listener. “Interlude – La Rage” is as its name suggests, but utilizes flamenco-inspired acoustic guitar, which feels oddly out of place on this opaque and dark album. Similarly, “Lex Talionis,” while featuring one of the best doom riffs, features odd clean vocals and effects as well as strange guitar distortion that can sound more like Blood Incantation or Gorguts than ever before, completing with an ebbing ambient section, all of which can be off-putting to listeners. Throughout, the drum tone does feel particularly weak for the doom sections. And truth be told, while Shezmu certainly has the chops to rise to the top, À Travers Les Lambeaux does little to challenge other “death/black with touches of doom” bands like Aum, Grave Miasma, or Light Dweller, although the project certainly belongs among these ranks.

À Travers Les Lambeaux creates an atmosphere I would label “Promethean,” as its lunacy-inducing atmosphere, above all its strengths and shortcomings, is the true star. For a group as young as Shezmu to professionally execute this style with relentless brutality mixed with eerie and subtle dissonance to boot, it only promises success. While it often feels similar to other black/death artists and sports some short-lived tonal inconsistencies, it sets the stage for a unique and indeed “Promethean” style to look forward to. Recalling Venomous Skeleton‘s debut from earlier this year, it avoids genre trappings and seamlessly flows among them for a dense and punishing black/death/doom album that feels far more organic than its genre adherence suggests.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Labels: Krucyator Productions
Websites: shezmu.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/shezmudeath
Releases Worldwide: 
July 27th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. We all know the dude is a total fuckwad anyway.
  2. “Through the shreds” in French.
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