II by Bacchus

Release date: April 7, 2023
Label: Debemur Morti Productions

For as long as civilisation has existed, humanity have sought ever-more potent ways of getting wasted. The Egyptians had beer, the Romans wine, and more potent hallucinogens have been part of cultures spanning the globe. Bacchus take their inspiration from the altered states that arise from chemical exploration, infusing black metal with melodies and textures that reel and sway, sinking into stupor and soaring into pure delirium. Composed by Moïse Mestriaux, who also provided the record’s synth and samples, and performed alongside Dysylumn’s Sébastien Besson and Camille Olivier Faure-Brac, II builds upon the otherworldly atmosphere of their debut and enriches every facet of its sound, taking it to a realm that is simultaneously expensive and soul-searching.

Atmospheric black metal sometimes feels like a genre that’s been played to death as of late but Bacchus’ strength is that they bring a sense of clarity to their work, especially in regards Sébastien B.’s grasp of melody. He establishes rich, tremolo-driven soundscapes then punctuates them with piercing counter-melodies, creating an eerie dissonance that sets II apart from the many, many like-minded releases that have come before it. Camille Olivier F-B provides a solid rhythmic backbone that occasionally reaches beyond functionality and takes over, the tight fills and steady double-kick throb taking control of the rich compositions’ flows.


And then there’s the star of the show, Mestriaux’s synths. To call them transformative would be to downplay the role they have in how these six compositions transport the listener to other realms; in the opening track alone, a volley of sharp John Carpenteresque stings prime the listener for an out-of-the-ordinary experience, while the sway of organ brings the fury to an unsettling close. On ‘II.IV’ the sense of unreality is amplified – reverb and vaudevillian melody join forces to create a funhouse hall of mirrors that reflects and distorts the worst of Sébastien B.’s giddy riffs and moans.

If a criticism had to be laid at Bacchus’ door, it may be that their vocals never quite reach the heights of the music itself. The hoary, drunken moans are an effective tool but are sometimes over utilised, and though it is usually juxtaposed with a clearer bark, the mix occasionally drowns out those contributions. When everything does come together, as on the sprawling ‘II.V’, it does become worth it, though; it’s an eerie onslaught of dissonance and pristine symphonic black metal that is eternally off-kilter, the voice perfectly in keeping with each dive into the uncanny.

The late Dr Hunter S. Thomson stated, “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me” and you can hear that sentiment mirrored in every minute of this record. There’s a perversely defiant spirit that runs through it, saturating each riff that strives to reach both heaven and hell. In seeking to explore the profundity of intoxication, Bacchus seem to have become one of the few bands around to replicate the bravado and regret that comes from any good sesh. In other words, grab a glass and give this a spin.

Pin It on Pinterest