If you know black metal, you probably know Debemur Morti. The French label, along with its distro Eitrin Editions, has been a bastion of quality, with bands including Horna, Archgoat, Spektr, and Old Wainds. It also handles European distribution for many Moribund releases. Debemur Morti recently put out five records which amount to an embarrassment of riches. I like them all. They have formed the majority of my black metal listening over the past few months. Below I will discuss each one briefly. I will not provide audio samples, as the label has set up web pages that stream each record in its entirety.

– Cosmo Lee

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Ruins (Aus) – Front the Final Foes
Stream: Here | Buy: Amazon, Relapse
Ruins are rough and tough, with over-compressed production working in their favor. Thankfully, the sound isn’t slick. At times the guitars assemble spectacular sheets of sound. The punchy drums are punishing. If you turned Tom G. Warrior’s “Ooh!” into an album, it might sound like this. The jackbooted vibe recalls Hiems’ latest record, but with less complexity and more malevolence.

Tenebrae in Perpetuum – L’Eterno Maligno Silenzio
Stream: Here | Buy: Amazon, Relapse
Never mind the iPhone photo-quality artwork; Tenebrae in Perpetuum are Magnum-caliber black metal. Their singer is delightfully crazed. They epitomize what I love most about black metal, the harmonic inventiveness. A minor chord is never just a minor chord; it modulates all over the place and arpeggiates upwards and downwards until guitar picks melt down. With all its tremolo picking, black metal is sort of a wayward descendant of Dick Dale.

Vetus Obscurum – Blood Revelations
Stream : Here | Buy: Amazon, Relapse
Vetus Obscurum is a project of Numinas, drummer of Drawn and Quartered. He is also the mastermind of Krohm, a one-man black metal band on Debemur Morti. (I reviewed Krohm here and here.) Vetus Obscurum is more robust-sounding than Krohm, though it’s still plenty dark. Vocals come from Herb Burke of Drawn and Quartered and Nihilist of In Memorium. Numinas is underrated as a drummer and guitarist; both aspects shine here. The harmonies are rich, and the melodies are dramatic. Vetus Obscurum could be a crackin’ band if Numinas so desired.

Way to End – Desecrated Internal Journey
Stream: Here | Buy: Amazon, Relapse
Way to End are a French outfit making a strange and satisfying debut. It reminds me of Ephel Duath’s black metal side. Images come to mind of creeping through labyrinthine Venice at night. If 20th century serial composers made black metal, this might have resulted. Skewed tonalities abound. Just when they threaten to collapse sideways, along come gorgeous acoustic guitars. The elegance and artistry have an ineffable Old World feel.

VI – De Praestigiis Daemonum
Stream: Here | Buy: Amazon, Relapse
The French strike again. At the time of this recording, VI were a duo with connections to many other bands (most notably Aosoth), plus a drum machine. Now they have a drummer with the apt name Blastum. I didn’t even notice the drum machine at first. The programming is skillful, and the deliberately lo-fi production obscures it. I would never expect to like a lo-fi drum machine record, but this one is special. It’s crunchy as hell, with wave after wave of gritty guitars. The layers fuse into a free-flowing feeling that’s both dirty and holy. The French are great at that.

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The first four records are available in a package deal here.