Review: Deliverance – CHRST

Deliverance is a French sludge/black metal band, formed in 2012 by guitarist Etiënne Sarthou and vocalist Pierre Duneau. The current line-up is completed by bassist Sacha Février and drummer Fred Quota, while guitarist Julien Hekking helps them out as a live guitarist. The band’s name comes from the eponymous 1972 cult movie which in turn was based on James Dickey’s also eponymous novel. They were quick to release an EP in 2013 but despite the good critics that remained their sole feat of arms up until this year. Apparently they took their time writing, composing and recording their first full-length called CHRST, which was then mastered by heavy weight Magnus Lindberg (Cult Of Luna, Salvation and many more). In theory this should mean it has the makings of an awesome release, the question is whether theory indeed makes practice in this case. The answer to that question would have to be ‘yes’ in my opinion. Why? Well, if you have ever seen the aforementioned movie, or even read the book, you probably have a good indication of what kind of music you should be about to encounter when playing this release: Compelling, disturbing, vicious and at times downright scary. These four components combined form the dominating atmospheric backbone of both movie and book which the guys have tried to transfer this into their music. And as far as I’m concerned they succeeded, unleashing over 45 minutes of musical terror, in the good sense of the word of course, on the world.

There are many bands that combine sludge and black metal, but in my opinion the mix of sludge and black metal, supplemented with components from death metal and post rock that Deliverance plays turns out particularly good. Their type of black metal is not the filth riddled, obscure type we know from the underground bands, but a more accessible yet still sharp and icy sounding type. Of course the fact these guys definitely know how to play their respective instruments and use their vocal chords is a huge factor, but to me there’s more to this release than just that. Right from the start you are submerged in a cold, dark, almost desolate atmosphere, involuntarily influencing your state of mind. To achieve this they could not have chosen a better opener than Hung be the Heavens with Black, in which the slow, heavy sludge suddenly merges into a violent, more black metal oriented rhythm. Pierre’s mean, cold, insane growling vocals are a huge contributor to the atmosphere of the songs, but, as always, in the end it’s the combination of both music and vocals that determines the intensity of the summoned atmosphere and the quality of the tunes. And of both there is plenty to be found on CHRST. The 10-minute spanning successor Out of the Saddening Blank with its ominously lingering intro is certainly not inferior to the opener, but to be honest the same can be said from every single song. Each individual song is more or less composed following the same blueprint: Parts that emphasize either sludge or black metal are seamlessly merged from the one into the other and combined with piercing, bone-crunching vocals, always maintaining the cold, dark feeling of desolation. The variation in duration, speed and construction of the various parts keeps things interesting without losing coherence in the overall composition, making this 45-minute journey way too short.

Admittedly, Deliverance’s work on CHRST might be considered an acquired taste by many, simply because it’s not exactly easy listening. It’s complexity and the cold, dark atmosphere it summons definitely needs quite some getting used to for the unsuspecting listener, but fans of the genre will have a blast with this. The compelling atmosphere and the extent to which it continues to haunt you throughout the entirety of this release, is of equal high quality as the tunes themselves, as is the outstanding production. Unlike most releases I get to hear this time I really have no favorite song, but if I was forced to pick one that would best summarize this album I’d actually pick two. A Bone Shall Not be Broken for its great black metal-ish style and I say Christ as its sludgy counterpart. Long story short: An impressive release, definitely recommended by yours truly.

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