There have been few bands in recent years that have created as much as a buzz about them as Cultes Des Ghoules; touted as one of those underground bands 'everyone has to hear', in a similar way to which country-mates Mgla and Batushka have been promoted.
Their last album "Coven" was particularly well received with many people claiming it as their album of the year, in my mind it was ’ok’ but nothing spectacular, the music did little more than hark back to old-school black metal.
Going into "Sinister" I was curious to see how the band have progressed and what lay in wait for those that haven't heard Cultes Des Ghoules before. In regards to progression there has been no real development in their sound, and if you don't know what they sound like just imagine some of the more mid-paced early Norwegian bands, there's a bit of Mayhem here, a touch of Burzum there, a smattering Celtic Frost throughout. Despite the fact, I struggle to find an immediate comparison (outside of maybe Italian act Mortuary Drape) the music doesn't feel fresh, new or particularly innovative.
Which is not to say its bad, it serves its purpose well and evokes the atmosphere of traditional black metal superbly, it's just that Cultes Des Ghoules seems to exist as a band that indulges the nostalgia of fans that are desperate to keep on promoting the notion of 'true or kvlt' black metal. The production is drenched in reverb and sounds relatively lo-fi in comparison to most albums being released currently, it comes off like a gimmick to sound more raw, atmospheric and ’evil’ than the music actually is. Bands like Mortuus and Ofermod similarly go the mid-tempo route and despite having more modern sounding production they both still sound more sinister and foreboding than the album in question, Cultes Des Ghoules feels pseudo-evil, in a similar way to how the Norwegians 2nd wave promoted itself in the early years.
All that being said the album is well composed, there's great musicianship on display. Of particular note is the bass work, throughout so many metal records the bass only acts as a tool to thicken the guitars, yet when the bass is done right it’s the unifier between rhythm and melody, the glue which holds everything together and brings so much more texture and dynamics to songs, "Sinister" has some of the best bass work I've heard on a black metal release in a long time. The guitar work is simple yet effective, classic black metal riffs, it all feels very familiar but it works well.
Overall, "Sinister" is a strong release that will satisfy most black metal fans, it's a bit like returning to your childhood home after a long absence, it's not particularly exciting and definitely not new but it's familiar and evokes a strong feeling of nostalgia which is hard to no enjoy.
Reviewed by Dan Thaumitan