VI. Yes, yet another band with a name that’s not easily Google-able, but after a month of nothing but doom and “space metal,” I decided I was due for some rather bleak, black artistry. What I didn’t know upon grabbing De Praestigiis Angelorum for review was that the band was comprised of former members of Antaeus and current members of Aosoth and The Order of Apollyon. So my French black metal senses were tingling big time, and with good reason: De Praestigiis Angelorum is one impressive debut.
After a rather unsettling intro comprised of sultry angelic voices moaning in either ecstasy or pain, “Par le jugement causé par ses poisons” hurdles you face-first into the depths of Hell with frenetic blastbeats, tremolo chords, and the acidic vocals of guitarist INVRI, who sounds like a more pained Vindsval (Blut Aus Nord). Musically, the insanity can be compared to Aosoth with flourishes of Deathspell Omega. It can drag on for a little too long towards the end, but between the atonal riffing, relentless pummeling and occasional grooves by drummer Blastum (Merrimack), it makes for a rather energetic and chaotic opener.
What keeps me from readily proclaiming this as The Next Big French Thing is that very few curveballs are thrown at you until the fourth track, “Regarde tes cadavres car il ne te permettra pas qu’on les enterre,” where you feel the ground give way at the 4:08 mark – thinking the song has ended its insanity, just to be thrown into a discordant dirge of horns, strings, and that damn choir moaning before your skin is flayed alive by relentless riffing and blasts. If you could only measure my grin once this happened. From there, the album went from “interesting” to “where is this going to lead me,” as there are a bevy of Voivod riffs (“Une place parmi les morts”), sweet solos (the end of “Il est trop tard pour rendre gloire. Ainsi la lumière sera changée en ombre de la mort”… yes, that’s the entire song title), and moments of Blut Aus Nordic brilliance (“Une place parmi les morts” and the second half of closer “Plus aucun membre ne sera rendu”), and all of it played skillfully and with blaring intensity.
Produced by bassist BST (The Order of Apollyon), De Praestigiis Angelorum sounds very lively. The guitars shimmer and clang during the atonal parts, the drums pound with organic heft, and the bass pops in and out with full audibility. If there are complaints to be had, it’s with some of the songwriting. While there’s not a bad song on here, the album doesn’t begin to absolutely floor the listener until the aforementioned second half of “Regarde tes cadavres…” But once it does, it grabs (and holds) your attention effortlessly.
2015 began as a rather ho-hum year for metal music, and it’s ending with me shuffling my year-end list yet again. VI made a damn good debut full-length with De Praestigiis Angelorum, and I see them making a serious name for themselves outside of their main projects. Keep this on your radar.