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Album Review: Délétère – Per Aspera Ad Pestalentiam

Délétère might not be the most well known of the bands in the burgeoning Québécois black metal scene – that honor probably goes to Forteresse – but their forthcoming EP Per Aspera Ad Pestalentiam might well change that. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the EP is fucking stunning – it’s a damn near perfect 25 minutes of hyper-melodic, second wave-leaning atmospheric black metal that falls somewhere between Bergtatt-era Ulver and Woods of Desolation, complete with memorable hooks and actual vocal melodies. Hell, it even effectively incorporates the occasional keyboard part.

The EP opens with “Incipit: Noster Fructus Irae,” which is basically an extended sample of the chant from the processional scene in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. For those not familiar with the film, it’s the story of a disillusioned knight who returns to plague-ravaged Sweden after fighting in the Crusades. The choice of sample provides an interesting thematic framework for the album. Per Aspera Ad Pestalentiam loosely translates to something about the obstacles of pestilence, and there are references to vermin and leprosy in the song titles, so it’s possible that the duo are drawing inspiration from Bergman’s seminal film (this is just a guess, though – no lyric sheet accompanied the album, and I’m pretty sure the lyrics are in French). It’s also possible that I’m overthinking it because I’m a bit of a Bergman fanboy, but I digress…

The four tracks that comprise the rest of the EP are melodic black metal at its finest. Second track “Le Lai de la Vermine” alternates anup-tempo verse section with a very catchy mid-tempo chorus and a slower, keyboard-driven bridge right out of an occult doom song. “Hora Leprae” is the most consistently upbeat track on the EP, alternating blast driven sections with hardcore gallops as it builds towards a surprisingly dissonant keyboard and funereal chant bridge. “Milites Pestilentiae II” has ghostly keyboard accents throughout, making it the EP’s most occult-sounding track. Closer “Ordo Regis Caedis” might be Per Aspera’s strongest track, with a moody mid-tempo opening riff reminiscent of Slayer’s “Dead Skin Mask” and one of the only minor chord progressions on the record.

All told, Per Aspera Ad Pestalentiam is one of the strongest melodic/atmospheric black metal albums I’ve heard in quite some time, and will undoubtedly end up somewhere near the top of my year-end best of list. Honestly, my only complaint with it is that it’s only an EP. Black metal fans would do well to pick this one up ASAP.  Since Sepulchral Productions doesn’t do Bandcamp, you’ll have to track down a physical copy, but it’s definitely worth it.

Per Aspera Ad Pestalentiam will be available on March 18 via Sepulchral Productions.

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