Regarde les Hommes Tomber

Ascension

Written by: RUB on 30/03/2020 23:24:07

As the Covid-19 virus sweeps across the world and lays streets bare, I find it strangely fitting to submit a review of a band with a lyrical universe that revolves around torment, agony and divine punishment. What’s more, the dark, bleak and ominous soundscape created by the Frenchmen of Regarde les Hommes Tomber (which translates to watch the men fall) should be equally fitting to the mood many people seem to be in these days. Doing a little research on this band, I've been able to read that “Ascension”, their third full-length album, is the final piece of a puzzle concluding a trio of thematically connected records. This is the group’s first album for the revered Season of Mist label, so it's obvious that they have made a few heads turn by now — and listening to this outing, it's easy to see why.

Having not given the previous two albums from RLHT a proper spin, the band has always been sort of on the periphery of my personal musical sphere. I did hear some tracks by them prior “Ascension”’s release, but never entire records, and I definitely couldn’t namedrop any particular songs from the outfit’s repertoire. However, their name has stuck with me both on account of its uniqueness, but also because of how majestic, dark and grandiose their sound is, as also witnessed on first track proper, "A New Order", which kick-starts the album in compelling fashion. After a short intro, which is clearly leading up to something extraordinary, the album gets off to a very good start. The harsh yelled vocals by T.C. send shivers down my spine, reeking of anguish and agony — and coupled with a blistering soundscape full of eerie-sounding guitars and fast-paced drumming, this track sets the overall pace for the rest of the songs to come. The way RLHT manage to build-up their songs thus becomes apparent early on; they follow a varied recipe, but incorporate both progressive elements and plenty of melody into their sound as well, in spite of always keeping a malicious and dreary tone.

After several listens, it is clear to me that picking the best tracks on offer here is quite the task. Every one of them has something unique about it, so I’m sure that the tracks I like the most wouldn’t necessarily resonate in the same way with the next guy, and as such, I urge every fan of the genres explored here to give “Ascension” a spin and choose their own favourites… though, to be honest, it might just be the entire thing. Giving it a try though, it could be the second track “The Renegade Son”. It has the same ominous and eerie guitar riffs as the opener, but with more melody and sludge — and it ends in a massive atmospheric crescendo, which seems to be a recurring element on the album as a whole. This is a general allure throughout the entire record, helping to make it a very diverse listen, which is especially crucial given how long the album is, with all of the tracks clocking in past the 8-minute mark.

I find it strange how RLHT manage to present such a vast, deep and impressive soundscape, when their excellence stems from a core of blackened sludge metal. Not to downplay the genre by any means, but melodies are usually not what I associate with that… yet RLHT make frequent nods in the directions of both ORM and Rotting Christ, neither of whose sound can be described as particularly sludgy. These two artists, too, have a strong sense of progression in the way their story is told, just as they both incorporate longer instrumental passages into their music in order to let their soundscapes unfold properly. Nevertheless, there are of course touches of sludge metal here, too; the music is dark, dismal and sorrowful, and the mix really helps to engulf the listener in all of that and doom and gloom. This comes at an expense though: “Ascension” will not make you happy or improve your mood. On the contrary, it almost sucks all semblance of life out of you, which actually makes the record slightly exhausting to get through — especially with the 50-minute running length in mind. I wouldn't straight up call the album depressive as other branches of black metal are, but with "Ascension”, RLHT come close to such territories. Take “Stellar Cross” for example: the haunting, deep cleans in the build-up sound like something out of a horror movie and, just like the tone of the music, they reek of anguish and despair. And that’s probably the best kind of approval I can muster. This album sounds absolutely nightmarish. It sounds unreal and haunting, and makes for a downright nasty listen, which the outro of “Au bord du gouffre” is the perfect example of. All of this is of course meant in the most positive way; every aspect of “Ascension” truly instills in you a sense of despair thanks to the eerie sounds and tormented lyrics deployed.

On a final note, I need to mention the artwork. Usually when I do this, I measure it against whether I can see myself owning the record in question on vinyl on the account of the cover alone. And the short answer: yes, I most definitely can. The night ritual taking place, with some dark, malevolent spirit being summoned, is a very fitting piece to complement the mood and atmosphere RLHT create with "Ascension”, and the sheer dreariness of the style in which it is painted seems very suitable and definitely deserves some standalone praise.

With "Ascension" RLHT have created a piece of music worthy of concluding their puzzle. It’s mesmerising, majestic and atmospheric to the point where one can simply queue the entire thing and get lost in its gloomy landscape. The album is filled with torment and agony, and truly feels like it was crafted as the soundtrack to somebody’s nightmare. I almost feel ashamed for not doing a proper check-up on this band prior to this release because they really have something special about them. Perhaps my grading is affected by the fact that I haven't heard the previous two records — but even so, I must admit that “Ascension” has really grown on me, and if you give it the appropriate amount of time and attention, I’m sure it will grow on you, too.

9

Download: The Renegade Son, A New Order, Stellar Cross, The Crowning
For the fans of: Downfall of Gaia, The Great Old Ones, Redwood Hill
Listen: Facebook

Release date 28.02.2020
Season of Mist

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