Release Date: 19 April 2019
Format reviewed: Digital Stream
“The old appeals to racial, sexual, religious chauvinism and to rabid national fervour are beginning not to work. A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organization and recognizes that an organization at war with itself is doomed.”
One of the foremost characteristics of any “thinker” to me is the aspiration to challenge and change the norms of “civilization”.Well, civilization has given many things to us, but it has taken away one thing from the us-the appreciation of mother nature, the appreciation of evolution, the appreciation of “life”.Think about the prehistoric times when people were too busy surviving against the forces of nature to think about race, sex, border, etc. They just loved the gift of life, they just cherished the moments they were blessed with to pass with the mother nature and they didn’t give a damn about all the complex issues of modern society because they were too busy wondering about “where did we come from, where will we go and what the fuck are we doing here?”.Unfortunately, that time is long gone. But even in this perfunctory world where it seems like people are moving further and further away from nature and spirituality, there are still some eidola who seek to return to that ancient spirituality-be it an astronomer or a philosopher or a poet or an artist. L’ acéphale was such a secret society and public journal in France just before world war II. The word Acéphale is derived from the Greek word Akephalos and means “Headless”.The group was formed by French intellectual and literary figure Georges Bataille and the aim of the group was to move away from the sterility of the modern world and return to ancient spirituality. When a black metal band names itself after this group, things are gonna be interesting, no?
L’ACÉPHALE started as a solo project of Set Sothis Nox La in Portland in 2002. But the band consists of six members now and they even used Geneviéve Beaulieu(a member of the Canadian blackened folk noise band, Menace Ruined) to contribute in this self-titled 3rd full-length, which was released on April 19th via Eisenwald,10 years after the release of their 2nd full-length. From the very beginning of L’ACÉPHALE, Set Sothis explored the various pastures of black metal. Set Sothis compared the first two full-lengths of L’ACÉPHALE like this-“Malefeascence takes the black metal aesthetic and seeks out other expressions of that aesthetic, which were difficult to incorporate in a full band format. Stahlhartes Gehäuse moves forward into a more developed multi-percussive pagan black metal direction with some folk elements.”So basically Malefeascence was a more neo-folk, ambient album while Stahlhartes Gehäuse was a more traditional black metal album. Another significant feature of L’ACÉPHALE has been the obsession of Set Sothis with art and poetry. Each of their albums has been deeply conceptual and comes with a booklet explaining the concept, complete with the primary source material and visual accomplishment. The booklets of L’ACÉPHALE albums have contained artworks by Austin Osman Spare, Franz Von Stuck, Suehiro Mauro, and Akseli Gallen-Kallela to name a few before. Besides, just like the one of the most influential band to Set Sothis, Drudkh, L’ACÉPHALE has always put a huge prominence on the use of poetry. It’s the same with this new album which contains poetry from French, German and Austrian literature. The cover art was made by band member Markus Wolff too which resonates closely to the work that Andre Mason did with the original Acéphale (Headless) group. So let’s now concentrate on the musical and lyrical aspects of this Magnum opus.
The pilgrimage towards the roots of humanity starts with “Sovereignty” which is by far my most favourite track of the album. This epic is actually divided into 3 phases-Dieu(God), Die sonne stribit (The sun dies) and Sovereignty.”Dieu” is based on the poem Georges Bataille wrote around the time of Acéphale. Bataille was the lover of Laure and they both were active members of Acéphale and this whole song actually explores many of the ideas of Laure who had a profound influence on Acéphale. The 2nd part “Die sonne stribit” is based on the poetry of German-Baltic poet Bruno Goetz and the final part “Sovereignty” is the writings of Laure herself. Now let’s talk about the musical aspects.”Dieu” starts with the little recitation of the poetry but then soon moves to one of the most hypnotic, melodic, spellbinding riffs that I am gonna ever hear. This riff makes me feel like I am surrounded in a pagan woodland and some occultic rituals are taking place where I am dancing with some divine witches in the celebration of mother nature, celebration of earth, celebration of “life”.But as ever with nature, nothing lasts forever.“Die sonne stribit” brings a somber, funereal atmosphere as the sun is dying.“Sovereignty” is about the lamentation of that lost sun. It’s more wrathful, it’s more resentful and here we hear the howling, mourning cries of Set Sothis for the first time.”Gloria in excelsis mihi” is another poem of Georges Bataille. This track is more about going back to the neo-folk, ambient roots of L’ACÉPHALE. The acoustic strumming, the little leads behind, the other-worldly voice of Geneviéve Bataille creates such a sacred, immaculate atmosphere.
“At the hight of the heavens
The angels, whose voice I hear, glorify me.
I am beneath the sun, a wandering ant,
Small and black, a rolling stone………”
“Runenberg” takes me back to the effervescent vein of the “Sovereignty”. The main riff(which will be back again in the last song “Winternacht” too) almost feels like the continuation of that song. Just notice the drumming of Charlie Mumma at the start of this song. The way he shifts from the tombs to snare in his drum fills creates such a beautiful tonal progression. His drumming throughout the album is really superb from the apocalyptic blast beats to the amazing transitions to the perfect use of cymbals.”Runenberg” is derived from a short story published in 1797 by the German writer Ludwig Tieck. The story is about a man seduced by the calls of the wild and a nature spirit that he meets in the mountain.”Hark! The battle-cry is ringing” is another ode to the neo-folk, ambient roots of the band. The double acoustic wizardry with ambient background and ancient drumming and fathomless, crestfallen clean singing really creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere before the dementia of distortions kick off. “Hark! The battle-cry is ringing!” is based on a poem/song that H.S. Salt wrote for the I.W.W.(Industrial Workers of the World) as a union song. The song refers to the leftist political orientation of the original Acéphale group.“Last will” is more about carnal, cataclysmic black metal. The later part of “Last Will” is a poem of the same name by Nietzsche. Laure and Bataille were both profoundly influenced by the writings of Nietzsche and his writing were a central focus of the original Acéphale group too.“Sleep” is so demonically hypnotizing with those palm-muted riffs and the tantalizing atmosphere surrounding it. Even though “sleep” was written from the perspective of Acéphale group too, the lyrics were written by Set Sothis himself.”Winternacht” is a blissful 19 minutes epic sayonara which really represents what L’ACÉPHALE is all about. There will be halcyon, there will be hue and cry, there will be a rapture, there will be melancholy…but most importantly, there will be unpredictability.”Winternacht” is based on a few poems by the Austrian poet George Trakl. All the poems deal with the metaphysical relation between human and winter.
So this is a 74 minutes transfixing adventure of neo-folk, avant-garde, and ritualist black metal. This is a coalescence of the serenity of Malefeascence and fierceness of Stahlhartes Gehäuse This is a search for the lost spirituality, lost exuberant perspective towards life, towards mother nature. This search is never-ending. In the words of the great Set Sothis himself “The path of the Headless is a circuitous path through the forest. A footfall on a mossy path to realizing that there is no path but a dense forest where one must pick and choose their directions carefully and at times double back to traverse to the next destination.A destination that is of their own choosing and not a continuation of where others have traveled before. We are not the first humans in this forest world and the only unique offering we provide is but our current interpretation of where we have been and where we might like to go.” 9.5/10
9.5/10 Immortal Classic
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