Bacchus - II (Debemur Morti)

Urfaust’s mournfully intoxicated sound is rarely given the attention it deserves, despite their having codified so many of Dutch black metal (BM)’s most delightful tropes (woozy atmospheres, trance-inducing song-structures, and varied vocals). The French boozers in Bacchus imbibe whole vats of this trailblazing duo’s ethos, but avoid being mere clones by infusing their Branbantian masters’ occult ambience with a vinous sensuality, portraying the heady effects of alcohol on a weary spirit.

In its tipsy splendor, II departs from the viciousness of BM’s traditional approach, counterbalancing the icier guitar tones with a warm and comforting mix of luscious synths and a chunky low-end. The record begins with two surprisingly uplifting tracks, “II.II” soaring like the spirits of a mirthful partygoer with its rousing chorus. But as the album progresses, the mood grows steadily more melancholic, as if celebrations were winding down, leaving the protagonist to mull over life’s shortcomings alone. The vocals masterfully enhance this tonal shift without even saying a word; Sebastien B. distends the operatic bellows mastered by Urfaust’s IX into emphatic moans, truly embodying his role as an introspective, yet incoherent drunkard. “II.V” is the emotional centre of the record, with breathy synths, an achingly forlorn set of riffs, and powerfully bittersweet vocalisations that mix hope and dejectedness – a trve lonely hearts’ anthem. Before now, only the “obscure dance music” of Ons Vrije Fatum has ever managed to consistently draw on these unique moods of inebriation, but Laster’s infectious rhythms and rippling electronics always spoke to a gloomy nightclub. Bacchus instead reside in a musty tavern, fit more for pint-nursing ruminators than shot-downing, hopeless young romantics. Sit with them – and drink deep!