Listening to the new album Ascension from French black metal band Regarde Les Hommes Tomber feels like a hypnosis-driven initiation into some kind of fire cult, to take a cue from the cover art. (The artwork features shadowy figures gathering in apparent reverence around a massive flame.)
Like the licks at the sky of some devastating inferno, the pounding riffs, sinisterly confident barrages of blast beats, and tortured-sounding vocals just get more and more disorientingly massive throughout this album, which is available this February via Season of Mist. Most of the seven songs are eight minutes or longer, and the band pack these lengthy pieces to the brink with captivating and physically inescapable volleys of sound.
The band’s riff patterns are subtly but surely complex with abrupt twists throughout this intricate onslaught. The careful, sonic, tapestry effect adds to the immersive quality of the music, since the songs—at least if you’re an open-minded music listener—feel truly accessible.
Once inside the band’s world, the effect of the repeating variations of similar absolutely massive-feeling musical segments feels psychedelically disorienting. With this music, suddenly listeners may find themselves stopped in their tracks in the face of this sonic encapsulation of arriving at some grand, shadow-covered, somber procession.
Occasionally, the music thins up a bit, and the melodies start feeling a bit like a more comprehensible gallop through the fog that the group has established, but they don’t really spend a whole lot of time noodling around. Instead, this piece feels like really just about all majesty—it’s grim majesty, but the subtly, awe-inspiring effects of these thick, maniacally repeating riffs feel wonderfully overpowering.
A similar, gripping effect from the raw, beating heart of this music—which feels only barely metaphorical because of how physically intense the listening experience is—persists through the occasional, much heavier portions when the band venture into territory reminiscent of straightforward death metal. Examples include the opening of the track “The Renegade Son.”
Although alongside their other unique flourishes, they do occasionally get that deathgrind going, Regarde Les Hommes Tomber never lose hold of their foundation of suffocating but regally confident and absolutely blistering black metal frenzy. Ascension—whose themes apparently tie into their previous albums—both invigoratingly freshens foundational black metal derangement and whisks it off somewhere new and exciting.