French black metal has become known for its more grandiose approach over the past few decades, with many of the originators of the country’s take on the genre offering just as much beauty and sweeping atmospherics alongside the usual darkness. This holds true for Bâ'a, a newer band whose members remain unknown but it’s evident from both their material and Osmose Productions’ promotion that these are established musicians whose roots trace back to the earlier days. The first taste of their material came courtesy of a three-way split back in 2018, and now the group has unleashed their debut full length Deus qui non mentitur. Comprised of four lengthy songs bookended by an intro and outro, Bâ'a sweeps listeners in with dense yet inviting atmospherics without stretching things out to the point of repetition like so many others.
There’s a sense of familiarity to Deus qui non mentitur, as its overall tone and the way that the compositions reach breathtaking peaks feels distinctly French. French black metal has often woven in additional layers of melody into its compositions and gone for grandiose compositions that take longer to relay their narrative, and this is the approach that Bâ'a utilizes with ease throughout their debut. Following a haunting intro that creates a sense of unease with lingering instrumentation and church bells, “Titan” launches into an immense layer of blasting riffs and drums that give listeners little breathing room. To say that this album starts off at an immense level and only reaches higher peaks from there is an understatement, as the atmosphere is so thick and grandiose that it overwhelms and captivates in equal capacity. Rather than simply blasting away the entire time, Bâ'a has a tendency to move between faster and slower tempos over the course of each song with the slower breaks bringing in some slight doom influences and allowing the darkness and beauty of their guitar work to shine through. At times the slower moments also remind me of fellow countrymen Celeste, though run purely through a traditional black metal framework. There are some definite patterns that the writing follows and as a result some of the album blurs together, but the amount of stunning passages that can take your breath away more than make up for it.
Something about French lends itself well to black metal, as the way the words flow always seem to weave around the instrumentation in a way that proves to be captivating. This is the case throughout Deus qui non mentitur, as the screams seem to hover above the dense layers with a commanding presence and make you hang on every verse whether you can understand the language or not. Bâ'a doesn’t merely stick with screams and call it a day though, as there’s quite a bit of variation to the performance over the course of the album and there are quite a few sections where they break into spoken word/singing that gives off a spiritual feeling. Despite the general anonymity of the band Osmose’s material mention that RMS Hreidmarr (The CNK, ex-Anorexia Nervosa) is behind the mic so those of you well versed in French black metal are likely to have a good idea of the level of quality on display here.
The sprawling nature of Bâ'a’s debut does lead to some moments that blur together, but with a concise thirty-six-minute length it doesn’t overstay its welcome and reaches some breathtaking and beautiful peaks. With equal amounts of darkness and light, this band’s material is reminiscent of both the earlier pioneers of French black metal and some of its more modern incarnations. For those who are inclined towards the denser and more atmospheric versions of this genre, this album comes highly recommended. Deus qui non mentitur is available from Osmose Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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