By on 5 May 2010

If you go check out Celeste at the endlessly useful Metal Archives website, the French band’s genre is listed as black metal/hardcore, which sounds pretty schizo and should give you the first hint of how hard it is to place this strange four-piece within any comfortable pigeonhole. If, indeed, any of those offer any comfort at all. Not that they are particularly experimental or weird, but the first listen to Celeste is usually a disconcerting one, if only for the blinding, unrelenting intensity each of their three full-length albums plus an EP offer, and it’s in that intensity that their genius resides.

When we use a term like “unrelenting intensity”, our battle-weary minds instantly turn to one of those 1000bpm wall-of-sound blastbeat fests, but that’s not what it means in this case. What makes Celeste unique is the harrowingly organic way in which wave upon wave of palpable, hateful darkness wash over you, until you have no choice but to give in and give up. It’s a bit like noise artists, the constant pummelling gets under your skin after a while. There’s no stop/start dynamics as such, and very few hooks to hang on to, as each of their aptly titled (‘Pessimiste(s)’, ‘Nihiliste(s)’, ‘Misanthrope(s)’, ‘Morte(s) Nee(s)’, you catch the drift) and sombrely, elegantly packaged releases unleash their dark fury, which, by the way, only gets more extreme from one to another. No mellowing out in sight, it seems. Just how we like ‘em.

Plus, they’re quirky. The first thing that strikes you if you go look at a few photos of them is how “normal” they look. These guys kinda look like they play in some pop band, which only heightens the impact by contrast. Even if they are known to get quite wasted before their shows, something we all know is very METAL, they are a bit alien to any scene. “When I started to play with Celeste, I’d never heard about bands such as Neurosis, Breach or Dark Funeral,” bassist Antoine told me in a recent interview I did with them. Then, there’s that (s) thing, there’s the fact that all the songs are sung, or inhumanly screamed out to be more precise, in their native French, there’s the eerily cryptic titles (‘Comme Pour Leurrer Les Regards Et Cette Odeur De Cadavre’, ‘Les Mains Brisées Comme Leurs Souvenirs’, anyone?), the teary-eyed, statuesque female figures all over their chosen artwork, the annihilating live shows where they perform on totally dark stages wearing little red headlights, and the best thing of all – they offer their albums for free download on their Denovali Records website and keep their physical counterparts limited and luxurious. So there’s really no excuse to not check them out right now if you don’t know them.

Let’s put it this way – I’ve seen these people live at the SWR festival last Saturday, and my ears are still ringing, and my neck still hurts, and I’d kill to see them again tonight anyway.

EDIT: Here’s a snippet from that show (video by Luana Magalhães)

José’s Band Of The Week will be a regular Wednesday fixture from now on, and I’d love to hear from you. Band suggestions, death threats, general feedback, random spam, Paypal money offers and bipolar love/hate mail should all go to I promise I’ll read at least 5% of them.

About Miranda Yardley

I'm Miranda. Bite me.

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