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Album Stream + Interview: Délétère – De Horae Leprae

In the Black Metal Wing of the Indy Metal Vault, we hold two truths to be self-evident:

– There are very few (if any) regional or national scenes that can hold a wax-caked candelabrum to Québécois black metal.

Délétère is without peer among Métal Noir Québécois bands – in terms of their ambition, their musicianship, and their songwriting chops. Hell, they have very few peers anywhere in the world right now.

Today is the release date for De Horae Leprae, their second full-length, and there’s no point in being coy – the album is fucking brilliant. In my review of their Per Aspera Ad Pestalentium EP last March (which ended up at a probably-too-low #19 on my Best of 2017 list), I said, “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.”

De Horae Leprae is even better.

A 65-minute concept album about a leper named Teredinis who becomes a prophet of Centipèdes and the human incarnation of the Plague, it builds on both lyrical and musical ideas from their first demo, 2012’s Inopia et Morbo. That’s where Centipèdes and Teredinis made their first appearances in the band’s lyrics. And while there have been keyboard accents on all of Délétère’s recordings, the organ hasn’t been anywhere near as prevalent in their sound since Inopia et Morbo, either.

So in a way, it’s like Délétère has come full circle on De Horae Leprae. At the same time, though, the album doesn’t feel like the sort of end punctuation that usually accompanies a phrase like ‘full circle.’ Instead, consider it the cliffhanger ending at the end of the first installment of a series of novels. A few plot points may have been tied up, but there’s still a lot more story to tell in future volumes.

As for De Horae Leprae, this may well end up being the gold standard for black metal in 2018, and we could not be more honored to be streaming it in full today at the Vault. I also had the pleasure of talking with Atheos & Thorleïf, the founding members and creative forces behind Délétère, about the new album, the mythos at the heart of their music, and a few other topics besides. Give it a read while you listen to the masterpiece that is De Horae Leprae. 

De Horae Leprae is now available from Sepulchral Productions, and can be ordered here.

Indy Metal Vault: So first off, thanks for agreeing to an interview. I thought last year’s Per Aspera ad Pestilentiam EP was damn near perfect, and now a little over a year later you’re back with your second full-length De Horae Leprae, which may well be even better. Before we get to talking about the new album, though, I want to ask one thing about the EP: “Incipit: Noster Fructus Irae” samples the processional scene from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. I’m a huge Bergman fan, and I’m shocked that more black metal bands don’t draw inspiration from his films – a lot of his themes and overall aesthetic seem perfectly suited for black metal. Was there something in particular that drew you to that film for the intro track to Per Aspera ad Pestilentiam?

Atheos & Thorleïf : First of all, let us thank you for your great words about our music. We work hard on it because we don’t want to take anything for granted. One must always try to better himself in every way.

T.: So yeah, let’s talk about this masterpiece called The Seventh Seal. As you surely already know, I’m a fan of this movie. Everything is perfect for the theme of the movie: the music is gloomy, the black and white cachet make the characters’ emotions deep, intense. But it’s without question that I’ll claim that the procession scene with the monks and the flagellants IS PURE GOLD. It’s like suddenly we stand at the frontier of a conflictual land where the beauty and majesty of the choir violently meet the horror, the suffering, and a river of tears. Is it epic? Yes. But the best part of this is that it’s actually a pretty historically accurate reenactment. As some may know, pain in the Christian’s worldview is a means to redeem the sins and a way to honor and repeat Christ’s suffering on the Cross and the sacrifice of his own flesh and blood to wash away the sin of Adam and Eve. It’s in the 14thcentury that usually historians marked the « birth » of the flagellants’ « movement ». These zealots traveled from one village to another, hurting themselves for the sake of society, protecting them from the just wrath of God (the Black Plague). Ironically, these guys played a great role in the propagation of the disease.

I don’t know why people don’t use more of the darkness found in this movie. It’s a shame.

IMV: Before we get into the De Horae Leprae narrative, you’ve consistently referenced the Plague throughout your discography. It’s not one that I can recall many other black metal bands writing about, especially not to the same extent that Délétère has. Where did your fascination with this topic come from, especially considering that Canada doesn’t have that much of a history with the Plague? If I’m not mistaken, there hadn’t been a human case of the Plague in Canada since 1939.

T.: I’m a historian and my fascination with the Plague is the result of some past research I did back in the day. But the omnipresence of the subject in the lyrics isn’t only due to my historical passions. In fact, it’s because I made the decision in 2009, when I founded the band, to create a fictional universe, a « medieval » dystopia where disease, misery, insanity, immorality, sexual deviance, violence, etc., existed in the world by the will of ancients « gods »; a universe that will give me an absolute freedom of creativity in regards of the themes, of the vocabulary, etc.

IMV: De Horae Leprae is a concept album concerning a leper named Teredinis (possibly from the Latin terēdō, which translates as ‘wormwood’) who becomes a prophet of Centipèdes (‘centipede’) and the personification of the Plague. Since the lyrics are a mixture of French and Latin and I speak neither, I had to rely on the very imperfect Google Translate to try to piece together the album’s narrative. From what I was able to glean, De Horae Lepraeseems to weave together elements from both Biblical and Lovecraftian mythos, culminating with the apocalyptic “Cantus IX – Oratio Magna,” which draws some of its imagery from the Book of Revelation. Are you willing to flesh out the narrative a bit? Am I even close with my interpretation?

T.: Yeah, you’re really close to the truth. So, to continue what I was saying few lines ago…let’s talk about these « gods », which I call the Chthonians (Chthoniensin French). These ancient and malevolent beings were the citizen of Chthonos, a city of pure darkness that was destroyed when the Pale Tyrant of the Pures—which is, in fact, the Christian Trinity—used his word to create the Light. From this cataclysm, only thirteen Chthonians were able to hide deep underground or in the cold blackness of the ocean or in the scorching desert. Among them was an entity so noxious, so cruel, so evil, and so powerful that he gained the lead among his peers: the Centipede.

I’ll stop right here because this primordial mythos will be the subject of a future album…but I’ll talk more about the Plague and Teredinis. To deeply and totally understand the link between them, one must open some books and read about the Christian exegesis. One of the key notions is the figure, the figura. To put it in a simple way, you need to imagine that for the Christian exegetes, what happened in the Old Testament was but a shadow of what would happen in the New Testament; and the New Testament was a prefiguration of what would happen « today ». As Moses was the figure of Christ, Teredinis is the figure of the Plague. It is why the lyrical structure of De Horae Leprae is grounded on the Book of Exodus. For Les Heures de la Peste, the lyrics were rooted in the Heures de la Vierge (Hours of the Virgin), etc.

Also, as you were able to notice, I use some pieces of texts that come from the Bible or from the Church Fathers like Augustine of Hippo, Gregory the Great, the Venerable Bede, etc.

At the end of the day, is it blasphemous? Of course, it is. I prefer to use the knowledge of the Church and to corrupt it by misusing it – for example, an inverted cross (which is, by the way, the Cross of St. Peter, a very pious symbol, ironically).

IMV: How long have you been working on the concept for De Horae Leprae? The song “III – Horae Leprae: Cantus IV: I.N.O.P.I.A E.T. M.O.R.B.O.” on Per Aspera ad Pestilentiamis a slightly different version of “Cantus IV – Inopia et Morbo.” Your first demo was also called Inopia et Morbo, and there are several references in the lyrics to Centipèdes (“Credo,” “Le cantique des vers,” and “Escarre”) and to “Teredinis the Father of the Lepers” (“Le caveau”). Have you been including elements of the story in your music from the very start?

T.: In light of what I said earlier, you can guess that it’s been on my mind or in my notebooks for a lot of years. I have two more albums in construction. And yeah, to really embrace the music of Délétère, one should read between the lines and cross-reference our lyrics. And suddenly, one would understand that there’s a whole world of darkness to explore under what seems to be another dull plague worshipping shit.

IMV: It not just those thematic similarities that make me think of Inopia et Morbo when listening to De Horae Leprae. From a musical perspective, the new album seems to have more in common with Inopia et Morbo than your last couple of releases, particularly in terms of the use of organ. In fact, the organ sections that bookend the album reminded me so much of the one in “Credo” that I went back and listened to it again to see if you’d reprised it, but it’s definitely different. Did you have the style of that first demo in mind as you were working on De Horae Leprae, or did those similarities just happen to occur naturally during the writing process?

A: We had the same gloomy mindset while composing this album, and I think there are similar patterns that emerged naturally from the process over time. Since Inopia Et Morbo, I think the songs are flowing more naturally and they are a little more memorable. Also the sound evolved considerably.

IMV: If I’m not mistaken, for most of Délétère’s history you’ve essentially had two lineups. In the studio, you’ve been a duo of Thorleïf (vocals, drums, keyboards) and Atheos (guitars, bass). For live performances, the lineup is fleshed out with G (guitars), Anhidar (guitars), and Kaedes (drums). In the promo materials for De Horae Leprae, though, it lists the five-member lineup. Are your studio and live lineups the same at this point? If so, has that changed your approach to songwriting at all, or is that still handled by Thorleïf and Atheos?

T.: From now on, we’ll always be a five-member lineup. But songwriting will stay in the hands of Atheos and me, with the others as our guides and critics.

IMV: In addition to being an incredibly strong collection of songs, De Horae Leprae is easily the best sounding album in your discography. The guitar tones don’t seem quite as saturated as on past releases, which allows for more of the nuances in the riffs come through. The drums have a nice, warm sound to them, and the organ parts resonate like they were recorded in a large hall. Who did you record it with? And since the subject kind of fascinates me, what did your studio rigs look like? How close are they to what you play with live?

A: Thanks for your kind words. We put more time and attention into the making of this album than on previous releases. Also, more people participated in the recording process, bringing another level of experience and musicianship to the work. The drums were recorded in a professional studio called Hemisphere Studio, directed by a professional sound engineer, Antoine Baril, whereas before it was recorded in our rehearsal room by ourselves. It helped me in the mixing process to get a sound a lot closer to what I was aiming for. The vocals were recorded in our rehearsal room by ourselves as before, but with a better mic. For the guitars and bass, they were recorded right into a soundcard and then processed through amp simulators. It’s not yet identical to the real deal, but it’s pretty damn close and it’s easier to work with. For the other instruments, they were composed on a computer and played through virtual instruments. So the rig is pretty minimalist, except for the drums. We don’t have a keyboard player, so we use a backing track to play the piano, organ and other synth tracks live. As a self-taught mix engineer who does this as a hobby, I am more confident in the process as I am more experienced in this art and I am now pretty proud of the result.

IMV: Your album art is usually pretty striking, but the cover for De Horae Leprae is especially so. Who was the cover artist? How closely did you work with the artist on the concept for the art? It seems to be pretty closely tied to the album’s narrative.

T: The mastermind behind the artwork is Pierre Périchaud from Business For Satan. We first worked with him on our demo compendium, creating a stunning Terveneficus… To be honest, I was unable to speak the first time I saw the picture. I was like « man… he did it… he did EXACTLY what I had in mind ». So it was clear for everyone that we should work again with him.

In fact, I can say without hesitation that from now on, it seems.

IMV:  What’s next after De Horae Leprae comes out? Do you plan to do much touring behind the album? Is there any chance for some dates in the States?

T.: We’ll soon begin our first European tour this summer, from the 28thof June to the 14thof July. But just before that, we’ll have two shows in our province: one in Quebec City and one in Montreal.

Oh, and yeah, we’ll go to the States. I can’t talk about it for now.

IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I always like to leave the last word to the artists – anything else you’d like to add?

A & T: To those who support us: thank you. To those who mess with us: FOAD, with a stress on the « D ».

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