Derniers Chants: an expansive and musically varied conclusion to a double-album concept

Ossuaire, Derniers Chants, Canada, Sepulchral Productions, SP053 digital / CD (2019)

Just six months after releasing their debut album “Premiers Chants”, Montreal-based black metallers Ossuaire release their barnstorming follow-up that completes the concept of the corruption and downfall of Christianity that was begun by the debut. From the very start Ossuaire seize their moment and dive headlong into aggressive melodic riff-based BM. The songs still don’t greatly differ from one another but the flow and the momentum each song generates flow well into the next track, and so on, until the tension and emotion culminate in the final two long tracks which reach epic heights in their sonic and emotional range. There is a thrashy headbanging rhythm in most songs, a strong folk influence is also present and the cold slavering, raspy vocal now oozes reptilian menace. The musicians have quickly found the groove that they had struggled for on their first album.

The band tears through the first two tracks with “Á l’ombre du Très-Haut” being the better of the two with catchy staccato riffing and a forceful, urgent energy that sweeps all unsuspecting listeners in its path and carries them onwards. The third song adds a melancholic edge with dark melodies and icy-edged singing that verges on the tragic, and key changes bring a sense of foreboding and dread as the track progresses. As on the first album, an instrumental interlude takes listeners to another level in this chapter of the anti-Christian narrative and the final two songs are very different from the previous tracks in pace and their attack strategy which features more doom and less aggressive thrash. “L‘Oeil-Sang” for the most part is a chug-a-thon until its eighth minute when it becomes a darkly Gothic ambient instrumental dominated by droning wash, piano and a sonorous cello-like melody. The title track has a folk-mediaeval flavour in its long introduction that gradually transforms into rapid-fire riff-heavy thrumming thunder reminiscent in style (though much stronger) of its mirror twin on “Premiers Chants” which more or less continues for the rest of the track save for a gentle acoustic guitar melody in the middle and in its coda. The similarity this track shares with the title track of its predecessor strongly suggests that both albums must have been composed and recorded quite closely together in time if not exactly at the same time.

It goes without saying that both albums really need to be heard together to appreciate not just the themes that unite them but also Ossuaire’s development as a unit capable of firing off aggressive and energetic black metal with a raw sharp edge, cold atmosphere and an emotional range that encompasses melancholy and anguish. That’s quite a feat for a young band whose line-up only really stabilised in 2018. Of the two paired albums, “Derniers Chants” demonstrates a much improved and more distinctive style: the band finds its identity in an approach embracing thrash and doom, melancholy and anguish, folk and even something veering towards flamenco. Where Ossuaire will go to next – whether the musicians continue with the same themes or venture somewhere else – who knows but the band is certainly worth watching in the future.