No God, No Satan

The first time I heard Otargos was their blackened death metal waltz “Hexameron” that apropos of nothing turns into this stripper-friendly fuck-me groove featuring what sounds like a sampled philosophy lecture.

Okay, fine. Maybe you’re just cooler than me. Maybe you’ve already been into and tired of the whole blackened death-metal, stripper-friendly, fuck-me groove/philosophy-lecture craze. But me, I missed it. So I was impressed and went on to listen to more of their new disc.

Real quick, I tumbled to the notion that, thematically and lyrically, Otargos is totally against deities. It’s like a thing with them.

So much so that Season of Mist’s PR people felt compelled to explain that “The French [blackened death metal band that plays metal waltzes that turn into stripper-friendly fuck-me grooves you could have intercourse to] base their philosophy on cosmology and an atheistic vision of humanity facing the effects of religions.”

This is included for people who, even after reading that the band’s last CD was called Fuck God-Disease Process, and learning that the new one is called No God, No Satan, still couldn’t suss out a theme of some sort.

Whatever, it’s nice that the four lads have something to be pissed off about, something super big and totally eternal like God. Because, aside from deity-hate being a total death metal tradition, being angry at God—and Satan to boot!—it’s a solid, long-term career move.

Like, all those hardcore crustie bands screaming and yelling about Bush being a scumbucket? Or Napalm Death taking on everything Noam Chomsky warned us about? Or Exodus using the power of thrash and, uh, cartoon album covers to seriously fuck with The Man?

Well, that rocks, sort of. And as for Bush and Cheney — they’re gone and so much for that. And so much for the tee shirts and merch of lesser bands’ careers in a world where the only metal band you can take seriously on a certain level is Iraq’s Acrassicauda because when they say “death metal’ it really could be, you know, death, while here in the US, oh man.

Here in the US, you seriously have to wonder how seriously and for how long can you can take the white-hat/black-hat worldview of any ‘rebellious’ band, no matter how snarly, misanthropic or corpse-painted, when nothing’s black and white anymore except maybe the hate—oh irony help me—except for the bug-eyed hatred spared on a for-real black president by aging white people because that black President is trying to give them healtcare while also trying to perform triage on a country otherwise gone so all-around batshit after eight (8) years of absolute moral nihilism that adult humans are having teaparties dedicated to inflicating deep agony on gays and Islamics while a giggly and glassy-eyed serial liar prone to homilies and moose shootings and who sees Russians from her window is viewed as a prime Presidential candidate.

How seriously can we take any band that says its ‘brutal’ and so-scary when, right now, Iranians are torturing their own people, Haiti is still a heart-wrecking hell, American candidates are seducing voters by being in favor of turning down healthcare for 9-11 first responders and American ex-soldiers are in mad houses for having been forced to torture innocents in a profit-war dreamt up by a fat bird-shooting sociopath given two thumbs up by a Born Again former cheerleader who stole his election as kingpin of the biggest, most violent country on Earth that…

See, I’m trying to make a point here. Two points really.

One: God’s always there for the hating. Take Behemoth, who Otargos resembles both in sound and, alas, image.

Behemoth has been making hay off hating the Divine for two decades—you go girls!—while Watain have already packed a solid decade of anti-ecclesiastical themes under its belt with a limitless future of doing the same laying out before them. And no, I profoundly doubt Nergal’s current ill health has anything to do with it. But we can take this moment to wish our leader swift return.

So again: Dissing on the Deity—great long term career move. But as my rant perhaps suggests, hating an ethereal power is a great escape valve—it’s lots easier and more pleasurable than dealing with an increasingly psychotic, undealable world. Unless you’re in a hardcore depressive doom metal band, in which case, a new wave of antidepressants is being released as we speak.

But I digress. Otargos. They’re really quite good.  Three songs, a catchy trinity of perviness, smart guitar, noise and talk—yes, talk, and lots of it—sum up the band’s oddly endearing oddball brand of blackened Gallic death.

Opener “Hoax-Virus-God” deconstructs Otargos to its abiding interests in scary chants, black metallic shoegaze and stripper-pole backbeat. “Cloning the Divine” drops the chants, and offers deeper, more intercourse-ready grooves in a gorgeous fog of My Bloody Valentine-y guitar where the rasp-vocals are mixed so low they’re just another pleasingly distorted texture. The effect is that of someone screaming in a black wave of bad electricity: I assume it’s a first single, whatever—I like it.

At 10:15, “Cuiusvis Homimis set Errare” is as expansive as “Hoax-Virus-God” is a succinct mission statement. It opens with muted thunder, rain falling on cars on slick city streets, a guy whisper-talking. It sounds like the French translation of Taxi Driver, that scene where DeNiro is hoping a real rain will clean the streets of New York of “whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies” but for all I know the Otargos dude is just talking about how much God sucks while trying to sound super sinister but honestly?

By that point I had to grin affectionately. I mean, when the Otargos credits say “vocals” they mean vocals. Along with that that opens sample that I’m claiming is a philosophy lecture sample but really, could be anythin and on to the film noir mutterings of “Cuiusvis Homimis set Errare,” No God, No Satan is jam-packed with men muttering, whispering and so on. For those of us who speak not a lick of French, the effect is that of the band commenting on their own record. Or hanging out at that special sort of men’s-only bath house. I kid, I kid!

One of the CD’s other finest thing is the opulence of its production, the velvety sonic space of it all. Even its high end somehow sounds full, in some way sensuous. Everything has been given their own space. Massive guitars become massive because they have breathing room and are not overdubbed into over-compressed submission. The riff of “Origin” is entirely based on this breathing thing — there’s a huge 16th note band blast, then utter silence, another blast, more silence, and so on. It’s both cheeky and inspired to base a song not on an riff so much as the band’s relationship with the studios’ acoustics.

The sole sound gaffe is a kick drum that excels low-end-wise but has the clackety-clak high-end engineers resort to sometimes to get their blastbeats noticed.

Visually, well that was a huge let-down. I went to the band’s site and watched a video and everything good about the band was instantly negated by some douchebag—a douchebag who might be in the band for all I know—who told the band it was super important to look like, well, like a 2010, post-Behemoth sorta-black metal-y-looking band, replete with deconstructed corpse paint that mainly makes it look like you’ve randomly rubbed and smeared black Crayola all over your face and what could be more evil?

Then there were the bands’ Cenobite leather outfits, because what spells keeping it cvlt more than leather that probably cost about 2,000 US per band member?

Whatever. There’s some real quirk value here. And maybe having trashed both God and Satan, they’ll locate the real darkness and who knows? For now, if looking like last year’s divinity killer gets them in the mood for something as catchy as, say, “Cloning the Divine”, fine by me.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Ian Grey
September 6th, 2010


  1. Commented by: stevhan the invincible

    epic rant dude, but seriously, will I like it?

  2. Commented by: thisblacksession

    Can I buy some pot from you?

  3. Commented by: Jesse Wolf

    Got this the other day after I watched their Cloning The Divine video. Really awesome black metal and cool review man.\m/

  4. Commented by: Ian

    Got no pot, alas.

    Yeah, Cloning The Divine, it’s like, really, um, large?

  5. Commented by: faust666

    What the f*** have you been smoking Ian ?? Lol. Good piece by the way (can’t call it a mere review).

  6. Commented by: Ian

    See, here’s the problem with all music reviewers, although God and Satan and the New York Mets know we try hard to avoid The Problem:

    The Problem is, of course, that ones’ relationship with the music shifts with time. Something that seems awesome at first later reveals itself to totally suck later. And vice versa.

    Anyway, OTARGOS. I think my uber-point, that metal would be better served lyrically and conceptually if it were a bit more, well, adult in its ideas when its trying to present itself as being more serious-minded…I think that’s still way valid.

    However, the music…I’m finding that this is a SERIOUS grower. That the music–forget the lyrics and ideas–the music is seriously growing on me. Yeah, it often sounds too much like Behemoth, but BFD–how many bands sounds way too much like Pantera and still bring the awesome?

    So–check this out. There’s some seriously catchy shit here happening that will serve all your blackened death needs. ‘K?

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