By Rich Hobson
Whenever a metal band professes to come from ‘the frozen fields of [wherever]’, an immediate association is made in the mind of most metalheads. Icy tundras; high pitched shrieks, an overload of blastbeats, Taylor Swift album covers… Well, maybe not the last, but its fair to say the general consensus points towards the notoriously frostbitten nethers of black metal. Not so with Montréal’s Shezmu, the death metal denizens taking a decidedly bleak and powerful headlong dive into extremity on their full-length debut ‘À Travers Les Lambeaux’.
The sound of Shezmu isn’t neatly confined to any one area of extreme metal, meaning that while death metal largely rules the roost, shades of doom, black metal and even Sumac style post-metal can drop into the mix to create a fiercer, more potent brew. Opening on the epic-length title track, the band trudge their way through some of the swampiest, sludgiest doom-inflected post metal sections this side of Mastiff before breaking out into frenzied sections that don’t feel a million miles removed from a Bathory or Emperor, if not for the pits-of-hell growls and snarls dredged up by vocalist Olivier Bérubé Emond that feel more befitting Morbid Angel than their Scandinavian counterparts.
Shezmu’s approach may seem scattered at first glance, but the truth is this band live and breathe heaviness, invoking its many forms and subsuming them into the greater whole. The result is a record that retains a strong sense of auteurship, everything doused in the thick tar of bleakness that seems to be Shezmu’s calling card and offers cohesion from start to finish. A brief moment of respite is offered in ‘Interlude – La Rage’, only to be followed by quite possibly the most punishingly straight-ahead death metal rager on the record in ‘Les Secrets des Ziggourats’, the first in a one-two punch of in-n-out DM bruisers that make up the latter part of the record.
Bookended by another epic-length track in ‘Lex Talionis’, the band go out as they came in; raging and railing against the world at large. The record’s most transgressive track clocks in at a little over eight minutes (with an actual musical run-time of around five) and manages to rampage through a summary of everything the band have done thus far, starting out with colossal black metal like fury and pulling further out to pitch-black doominess and steady-stomping death metal, providing a suitably thunderous finale.
Clocking in at a little under 33 minutes, Shezmu’s assault on the senses is a surprisingly (and somewhat refreshingly) brief affair, concerned more with the impact of the music at hand than at dragging itself out and becoming flabby or listless in the process. ‘À Travers Les Lambeaux’ exercises just enough restraint to be a truly effective opening salvo from Shezmu, laying their stall out in no uncertain terms whilst leaving the listener wanting more as a result, just uncomfortable enough to raise the hackles whilst not feeling like an endurance test to reach the finish line.
- ‘À Travers Les Lambeaux’ is out now. You can get your copy HERE.
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