You may remember my brief treatise a month or so ago on the subset of black metal I call “void worship.” But there’s a different kind of despair that can be conveyed via blast beats, distortion, and howls: that of the Earth. The primordial mysteries of the occult, unspeakable sacrifices in the name of even more unspeakable deities, the unknown that still lurks beyond the frontier of civilization, etc. It’s one thing to make “ritual music,” but it’s quite another to make music that actually feels ritualistic—i.e., as if something well outside the realm of both your perception and your understanding is occurring, and as the passive participant one is forced to embrace whatever obscure divine catharsis can be gleaned. Bacchus, the self-titled debut from this new French band, doesn’t have the darkly meditative tribal rhythms of Ruins of Beverast, the organic uncanniness of Murmuüre, or the collective spiritual grit of Zeal & Ardor, but what it does have is the beautifully wispy form of multi-colored smoke rising from flaming herbs, a cloud of sublime soot rising toward the sky with soaring moans and epic arrangements. I’m not usually one for the shouted vocal style in this genre, but the low growls, desperate recitations, and fast-fading bellows of Sébastien B. feel right at home amidst the reasonably clean production, which allows the ambitious dynamics and climaxes to really shine. One of those debut records that sounds more like a more refined second or even third effort.