November 21, 2023
From Bandcamp, “PSYGNOSIS make a distinctly Progressive type of Death Metal. For one, the French band doesn’t have a vocalist. Instead, they’ve got a cellist. This heady configuration tempers “Mercury” with a sublime beauty. Their first album for Season of Mist is full of wide, sweeping vistas that are spiked with metallic muscle, but also ringed with deep sensitivity. It’s an eye-opening panorama and a breath of fresh air for Death Metal.” The album has five songs.
“Öpik-Oort” is first. The first few bars sound like the buzzing of a swarm of bees, both in the unfathomably fast drumming and the guitar work. I find that French Metal bands are some of the most unique in the genre today, and this is no exception. The cello does indeed temper the angry aggression with somber notes, and although here is indeed a full bit of hardened Metal in the song, the melodies also have time to develop. “Eclipse” is heavy with cello and poignant emotional qualities from the start. Guitar join in, and a harmony develops between the two. In comes the aggression from the drums, but it is held in check until after the half-way mark, and then it is unleashed. This is some fantastically composed music.
“Sunshine” begins with smooth and soothing tones, from clean guitars and cello. The background is also tinged with atmospheric melodies. It builds slowly into a simple but very effective melody, until the bud turns into a flower that opens with all its glory. “Caloris Basin” is sturdier out of the gate, with a thick and steady supply of distorted guitars fighting vigorously with sober cello melodies. The mortal battle becomes a clash of the titans, with each side giving their all, and by the time the smoke clears, both fighters have mysteriously vanished from the battlefield.
The fifteen minute “Uranometria” closes the album. Eerie spoken words appear in the mist of the background music, and the tension is thick. A steady guitar riff builds the sound from there, as subtle layers are added and the music climbs slowly, until a bossy riff breaks the concrete wall. Then, just after the halfway mark, the aggression dissipates and is replaced by more somber cello notes and a feeling of just existing, not really living. The crushing riff returns, and with each heavy accent, you sink lower and lower into the earth.
Overall, some Metalheads have a tough time with instrumental albums. I believe in two things: First, the band has to work harder to orient the listener to their type of music because vocals are such an obvious and easy medium in music. Second, the have to be creative so that the listener stays engaged. PSYGNOSIS does both of these things on “Mercury.” Obviously skilled, they show a maturity in songwriting ability that doesn’t come around every day. I found the album to be mysterious, intriguing, and right in my wheelhouse.
9 / 10
4. Caloris Basin
Elise Masliah – Guitar
Raphaël Verguin – Cello
Rémi Vanhove – Guitar & Sound Design
Thomas Crémier – Drums