“Monte Verita”

By Anathema Decree

Cénotaphe have debuted their first full length entitled “Monte Verità” via Nuclear War Now! Productions and Ossuaire Records. Since their demo release in 2016, the French black metal duo has remained steadily active. Recording multiple EPs, a split with Circle of Ouroborus, and culminating with the release of this album. My first introduction to these guys was last year's “Empyrée” EP. Overall, I consider this record to be an improvement on their previous output.

They employ a mid-paced approach throughout, never really venturing into breakneck tempos. The album is relatively straight forward in many regards. The heavy reliance on melodic grandeur and solid arrangements is not atypical from some of their countrymen and contemporaries within the genre. Competent musicianship and compositional literacy guides the listener though an anthemic, although somewhat predictable experience. From a technical standpoint, the instrumentation itself is adequate, fulfilling all the necessities of pushing the auditory narrative forward, and nothing more. The strength of “Monte Verità” stems primarily from the infusion of melody throughout. The vocals are generally quite typical of the shouty and not particularly distorted howl often found in modern black metal. Although, the utilization of clean singing and chanting is also present on this French language release.

The cover art is a drawing from 1899 by the Czech artist František Kupka titled "Meditation".Although I do not speak French, derived from cursory Google translations, the lyrics and theme of the record appear to be focused on philosophical struggle through existence with Nietzschean overtones.

The LP takes a significant step up in quality at the halfway mark from my perspective. The first half meets the requisite criteria to accommodate the whole, but not till one gets to the figurative or literal (depending on format) Side B of the record do we really get to experience the best qualities of the album. The songs that best exemplify the above mentioned anthemic melody-centric strong suit are, tracks five “Intolérante thébaide”, six “Ne m'oubliez” and the closing title track “Monte Verità” which translates to Mount of Truth.

In summation, “Monte Verità” is enjoyable and worth investigating for patrons of the French regal sounding melody oriented black metal scene. Although less imaginative and masterful than some of the more impressive acts from this regional genre, such as Aorlhac, Nécropole, and the incomparable Sühnopfer, Cénotaphe has taken a significant step in the right direction and made a rewarding contribution this year's catalogue of black metal releases.