Regardless of the quality of the output, it is a feat of creativity and ambition to cultivate a fully realized Black Metal theatrical production; a concept story spread over five “scenes” and amassing nearly 100 minutes of occult, evil music to unveil the full “play” that is Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love (Hells Headbangers).The resolve to chisel this dark, Satanic opus is commendable, and the wicked canticles spreading across this double CD / triple vinyl are dripping with the black tar of the labour of its preternatural creation.
Considering the capacious nature of the concept of the release, and that Cultes des Ghoules are renowned for lengthy missives dreadful, it is worth noting that this is not the expansive rural Black Metal inspired by frost-bitten trees or mountain sides. Instead, Cultes des Ghoules take their inspiration from the more primitive cleavings of Venom and the Morbid Tales (Noise International) of Celtic Frost, with ‘Scene III: Strange Day, See The Clash Of Heart And Reason’ sounding like the preliminary offerings of My Dying Bride, all interspersed with ambient passages. Vocalist Mark of the Devil alternates between rasps and bellows and orations, taking on different characterisations depending on the phase of the recital, veering into Attila Csihar territory at times, and binding the ritual together over an unfussy concoction of stomping riffs, barbaric thundering and doomier sprawls.
It goes without saying that, in spite of the spirit and labours of its authors, due to the dearth of diversity between the compositions – this is a fairly narrow field of fibrous Black Metal they dwell in after all – Coven feels every minute of its bloated duration, and by the time it wends its way round to ‘Scene V: Satan, Father, Saviour Hear My Prayer’, at twenty eight minutes effectively a Beherit album its own right, you’re willing Black Phillip to come and eat your soul.
Yet, whilst the execution of this demonic play might fall short of the vast attempts being made, Cultes des Ghoules have achieved something that many of their foul peers would never even imagine conceiving.