Review by Jason Guest
Hells Headbangers (Release Date: 16 April 2013)
Named after an arcane book of black magic in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, sonically, Henbane is the stuff of nightmares swarming with devils, pentagrams, blood-stained broken mirrors, and botched exorcisms by inept priests unable to comprehend the undeniable force of the dark arts. Lyrically, Poland’s Cultes Des Ghoules wrap their horrific soundscape up in otherworldly imagery, intoxicating airs of forbidden passions, orgiastic black magic, and ritual debauchery. Five tracks in one hour of laothsome, licentious, Lovecraft-influenced black metal? Not for most, it’s pretty safe to say.
Opening with spine-chilling sounds swirling in an ill-boding storm, the ceremonial ‘Idylls Of The Chosen Damned’ sets the scene, a relentless fiery riff cascading in as darkness befalls. Bleeding with unending torment and suffering for a full thirteen minutes, a Hammer Horror melody appears and the track segues into the black deathly clatter of ‘The Passion Of A Sorceress’. The mood shifts with the ominous tumbling drums and solemn chords that open ‘Vintage Black Magic’, its tangible, ungodly air slowly swinging pendulum-like between an unearthly cathedral-like vacancy and a menacing asperity. ‘Festival of Devotion’s lunar-worship tells of forbidden pagan worship and virgin sacrifice against a fiercely spellbinding backdrop of repetitive riffs and rhythms. And ‘The Devil Intimate’, at almost fifteen minutes, leaves the listener darkly gratified by its lewd depiction of drug-laced depravity and sinful devotion, a curious haze lingering as the veil of Henbane slowly collapses into the haunting sounds of a reverberating piano.
The sheer defiance and resolute devotion to the horned one saturates every one of Machine’s and Minski’s mutilated riffs and W. Earl’s drumming – as hard-hitting as stones cast by pious judges – to create a blazing backdrop of black metal intensity for Mark of the Devil’s mangled ejaculate. His style a composite of despairing screams, lascivious scowls, and demonic roars, his nefarious liturgical lyrics come to life and hell is made flesh. Taking in doom-laden oppression, the fire-bitten black, and the omnipresent absence of death for its preternatural aesthetic, the experience of Henbane is terrifying, petrifying even, a distinct feeling of danger and dread hanging in its toe-curling, eye-popping, blood-curdling air. An incredible excursion of despicable grandeur, this is an unhinged abomination that should take pride of place at the forefront of your collection.
8.5 out of 10
- Cultes Des Ghoules on Facebook here
- Hells Headbangers’ page on Cultes Des Ghoules here
- Listen and buy Henbane here
- Idylls of the Chosen Damned
- The Passion of A Sorceress
- Vintage Black Magic
- Festival of Devotion
- The Devil Intimate