Rosa Mystica

For a couple years now, I’ve been praising the French for their rise to prominence in the Traditional Heavy Metal scene. It’s still not necessarily a numbers game, but the quality in the limited product is undeniable. Obviously, much of this is owed the genre’s continued growth in popularity, but bands like Herzel and Tentation show the great results that happen, for whatever reason, when you mix the classic sounds of Heavy Metal and Doom with the poetic, beautiful nature of the French language.     

But while the French have made great strides recently in representing the genre, their Canadian cousins across the pond have been carrying the torch for some time now, and one of the finest examples from Quebec over the last dozen years has been the excellent Cauchemar, and their latest effort is perhaps their finest yet.

For those new to these Canucks, they’ve built their reputation on a foundation of classic Doom-based Heavy metal that brings to mind the likes of Pagan Altar or Cirith Ungol, or a more contemporary counterpart like Smoulder, but delivered with those infectious French-spoken vocals that continue to prove to be a perfect companion for this kind of product. For those who’ve been with the band for a while, this album showcases a tiny switch-up in the dynamics, adding a little more space to their sound, giving the songs a feel as if they were being played in a rural country tavern by torchlight. “Notre-Dame-sous-Terre,” “the epic “Rosa Mystica” and moments in “La Sorcière” are excellent examples, the first really slowing everything down and settling in to that dank, musty classic Doom vibe best served by the glow of candlelight in a room filled with skulls and spider webs. The organ hits provided by singer Annick Giroux really help to set the scene and provide a creepy backdrop for the band to build what I assume must either be some sort of demonic summoning or sacrificial rite. I don’t speak French so I can’t really be sure which it is, but Giroux’s impassioned, somewhat tortured vocals suggest at some possible interdimensional madness settling in under the surface, like maybe she’s summoned some malevolent deity one time too many.

But where those tracks certainly walk on the darker side of Cauchemar’s sound, others bring a much more triumphant tone to the mix. “Rouge Sang” is a driving, upbeat banger that starts off at a much rowdier pace than you’d necessarily expect from the band, bringing a bevy of NWOBHM influences into the fray, before ending on a more familiar Doomy dirge. “Le Tombeau de L’aube” even brings in a little double-bass action to briefly help kick the revs up a notch. While these songs are fun and I do appreciate the band changing up the pace to avoid stagnation, I’m not sure this is necessarily the band’s most comfortable wheelhouse. They’re really at their strongest when they let the music breathe a bit to create some real atmosphere and depth, especially when those aforementioned organs get into the mix.

Rosa Mystica really shines because the band seems to have hit its stride and found a formula that works best for them. They create a tone and sound played with the kind of confidence that, despite the fact that I have no idea what they’re singing about, I’m still left with very vivid (if morose) pictures in my head as the album plays on. The sounds here are as familiar as they are enticing, and Cauchemar continues to grow into a super solid little traditional doom outfit, and Rosa Mystica is yet another really solid release from Temple of Mystery records, who keep building a nice resume for themselves.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
May 6th, 2022


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