Celeste's last album, 2010's Morte(s) Nee(s), was easily one of the best records to be released that year, an unyielding assault of blackened metallic hardcore with a gratifyingly nihilistic bent. Even by their own high standards, it was stunning. Animale(s), their fifth full-length release, has a lot to live up to, and unsurprisingly, it meets those expectations — a fact even more surprising given it’s a double album.
It continues along the same path of their previous work, given that it’s brutal, harsh and oddly resigned. It flits between churning sludge and furious, juggernaut-like blackened metallic hardcore. It’s like the protracted howl of a mortally wounded animal that’s accepted what’s about to happen.
It isn’t the all-out assault Morte(s) Nee(s) was and, truth be told, it lacks the almost psychotic, manic edge that album possesses, but make no mistake, they haven’t suddenly turned into Ed Sheeran. Animale(s) is still a bloodied claw taking a giant swipe at the world, but it’s a claw from a more refined beast. The production’s a bit cleaner and a little more varied as it ranges across the album’s 69-minute running time.
Celeste’s strength lies in their uncanny knack for (believe it or not) melody. For all their clattering and shrieking rage, the moments where they prove just how special they are occur when a desperately sad-sounding minor hook shines through the murk. It’s a trait they share with a band like Will Haven. Dissonance and fury are all well and good, but Celeste’s penchant for infusing their compositions with these moments gives context to their anger. It’s most prevalent on tracks like Dans ta salive, sur sap eau and Cette silhouette paume et delabree qui sanglote et meurt (all the songtitles are in French, which adds to the existential fury prevalent on the album, naturally).
Basically, Animale(s) is absolutely essential for anyone with even just a passing interest in heavy music. It’s a hard listen, but through adversity comes triumph. It’s testament to just how talented they are, that in a country that’s produced talent like Gojira, Deathspell Omega and Eryn Non Dae, they’re arguably France’s finest metallic export. Très bien.