Cursed Ways of Sheol EP

When it comes to this modern world of cavernous, old school death metal – I have to admit, I’m a little bit picky. I think there’s a handful of bands that do it super well (Witch Vomit, Spectral Voice, Dead Congregation, to name a few), and I think there’s A LOT of bands that, even if technically proficient, just somehow seem to get muddled in the ever-growing fray of similar acts. This is, of course, just personal opinion. There’s nothing “right” or “wrong” about it, just a reflection of my personal preferences. With that in mind, being presented with bands like these in a smaller, more concise package, seems to help me see these bands in a more favorable light. Get in, cause a ruckus, get out. Job done. So when a sweet little EP like this from France’s Sépulcre comes across the desk, I’m ready to friggin’ rumble.

I always feel one of the most important aspects of making an album like this successful is in the creation of real, palpable atmosphere. I want to practically feel the dread oozing from its evil, cobweb-ridden pores, and as should be no surprise from these fetid French – Sépulcre pulls it off in spades. From the slow, building intro to “Cursed Ways of Sheol,” through the meandering, unsettling 9+ minute closer “Foul Divinity Enthronation,” the band’s intent to drag listeners through a bottomless crypt of horror and heft is ever-apparent.  Guitarists Hélène Leroy and Kev Desecrator (who also currently plays drums for Destroyer 666) do excellent work of balancing some burly-as-hell filth with a heavy dose of nicely layered, atmospheric breaks that bring a much needed sense of gloom and doom. It all works particularly well on “Relics from Unheartly Cult” which, to my ears, really showcases what the band is fully capable of bringing to the table – starting with a nasty, nostalgic SwedeDeath riff that never goes out of style, and using it as a backbone to bring in an assortment of lethal weaponry; from furious blasting, to impressive, melodic leads, to those spacious, unsettling breaks that simultaneously sound beautiful and utterly terrifying.

It’s also worth mentioning that, following 2020’s solid debut EP, Cursed Ways of Sheol showcases the band’s marked improvement on almost every level. The riffs are sharper and more focused, the drumming from Jon Whiplash is tighter and more impactful, and an added emphasis to creating more depth to the band’s sound with bassist Romain Gibet, all come together to really make for a more dynamic, pleasant listening experience. If I have anything to nitpick, it’s that the band introduces a subtle layer of organs at the end of “Aethyr Emanations,” and frankly I think its being underutilized. Incorporate that more, mes amies! They add such a nice added layer of dreadful atmosphere to the slower, more doomy stretches and I’m just left wanting even more of it.

Like I said earlier, I do think brevity is usually beneficial to this kind of offering – but I must say, Cursed Ways of Sheol definitely has me excited at the thought of a full length effort from these guys. But hey, if they wanna just keep cranking out killer little EPs like this, I ain’t gonna be the one to complain, either. Dive in to the crypt and get a hold of this beast.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
January 6th, 2023


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