Review: Mal du Siècle – Dark Ceremonies Under a Cursed Moon (Death Kvlt Productions, Feb 1)

If you’ve ever been to an eclectic music shop, there was probably a decent amount of black metal tapes, whether meticulously organized on shelves or stacked haphazardly in a corner. With their ornate medieval fonts, depressive imagery, and overwhelming use of (surprise) the color black, it’s hard for just one to stand out. Dark Ceremonies Under a Cursed Moon fits that tape kvlt triad to a T, but it also hits on another aspect of why buying obscure metal tapes is such a fulfilling pastime: occasionally you find a random one that is just fantastic. One-man Spanish project Mal du Siècle (‘sickness of the century’ in French) doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel here when it comes to raw black metal, but it’s a homogeneous genre for a reason, and all of the essential elements are here in flawless form. The drums, while obviously programmed, are draped in enough dust to add texture while grounding the airy tremolo riffs in a constant rhythm. They also add a unique propulsiveness to the music, especially on “Martyrium Mysteriis,” which blazes forward on the back of a beefy double bass assault. True to the project’s name, the vocals are sufficiently tortured and full of anguish, communicating the “ennui, disillusionment, and melancholy” that the unnamed artist cites as their musical provocation, even without clearly discernible lyrics. Dark Ceremonies Under a Cursed Moon barely reaches 16 minutes with its four tracks, but by the time the angular 6/8 riff hits right before the fadeout in “Lost Relics From the Satanic Cult,” I’m ready to go all over again.

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