“The Hours of the Plague.” The title of the debut full-length from Délétère certainly translates to something formidable. While the Québécois black metallers have been at it since 2009, they’ve thus far only teased us with two EPs up to this point. All of a sudden, however, they’ve emerged in 2015 with a demo compilation called De Ritibus Morbiferis as well as the aforementioned full-length. I’ll be covering the demo a little later on; for now, I’d like to focus on Les Heures de la Peste, which has delivered in the manner its name would imply.
Now, I’ll be honest: Délétère is a band I had never even remotely heard of before going into this week’s album reviews. But going into this blindly ended up being a good thing. The first couple of times through Les Heures de la Peste weren’t that impressive. It was a sound that initially seemed too familiar and previously utilized with better execution. The production is raw—which, in all fairness, is something readily associated with this genre, especially for lesser-known and emerging acts. But the production quality was just a little too sparse here for what they are trying to do; this is a 50-minute listen with plenty of intricacies worked within the track—intricacies that would benefit from a bit more polish.
Instead, the percussion seemed to lack a certain power and clarity relative to some of the guitar leads…and especially the vocals. While this is forgivable for the most part, it meant there was a lack of depth from time to time. Fortunately, the leads shrieke crisply and the vocals echoed hauntingly throughout, allowing the album to keep the darkened soul behind its personality intact. Even despite the lyrics being predominantly in French (and occasionally Latin—cool, right?) the aggression and eeriness was never lost—which, I suppose, is most important.
And the thing is, the more I listened to it, the more I enjoyed it. Certain tracks started to stick out where once they’d been difficult to differentiate. As we see with some complex albums, this is a collection of tracks that needs room to breathe. Once or twice through this thing isn’t enough. Only after several listens—preferably in isolation—will this thing really start to take form. You begin to notice how well the leads accompany the vocals as they both howl and wail into the night on the likes of “Matines – Portepeste” and “Laused – Credo II,” the latter of which implements an absolutely traumatizing vocal harmony as echoing cries are met with a clean, resonating bellow. It’s terrifying.
The same compliments can be paid to “Sexte – Une charogne courennee de fumier” which tops eight minutes and is easily one of the more ambitious songs on the album. It gallops along, chanting about misery and despair at every opportunity, even pausing for reflection as half-spoken, half-barked words of Hell are spit forth before falling back into a far more choir-like chant. Finally, “Vêpres – Architectes de la Peste” is a song I simply can’t keep out of my head. It exemplifies the more upbeat, borderline catchy quality that this album continuously reverts back to. The tremolo picking and steady pace make this a track that keeps your head banging and your foot tapping.
All in all, Les Heures de la Peste is a worthy debut that should help push Délétère a little further forward in our black metal radar screens. While there’s noticeable room for improvement, the talent is there and the personality and stylistic goals are unquestionable. This may not be an album I revisit that often this year, but there is no question that I’m looking forward to what the future will hold for these guys.
“Ein Bier… bitte”