David Benatar is one philosopher that argues against the concept of existence itself. Antinatalism is the philosophy that life should not be, for to bring life into the world is to cause unnecessary suffering. Beginning with the cries of a baby, and with two tracks titled “Ωlpha” and “Θmega,” this idea that suffering begins and ends with life exemplifies the music of In Cauda Venenum. This is a painful journey from beginning to end, but some could argue that pain itself is beautiful and therefore, perhaps, worth it.
There is little doubt that France is known for artwork that epitomizes the idea of suffering. From DeSade to modern film-maker Gasper Noe, much of the artistic output from the area is focused on the agony of being, arguably an existential idea within itself. Listening to In Cauda Venenum is like ascending a spiral ladder to the skies and suddenly missing a step, immediately plummeting back down into the temporal abyss below. This ancient game reveals a truth about life, hence why it is still played by children today. Even if you make it to the end, you shall perish anyway. With riffs building upon each other, specific notes feel like steps to the next section where the vocals push you over into the void. It’s both triumphant and tragic, steady in its resurrection then quickly submitting to gravity.
This shows as much of a potential influence from the infamous Les Légions Noires as it does from Cascadian black metal, if you believe such a thing even exists. Mixing traditional aesthetics such as tremolo picking and vitriolic vocals, its passionate approach appeals to the multiple worlds of the subgenre in various ways. This is no-holds-barred, and this quality is revealed in how drastic various sections are, which amazingly relate when all is said and done. Focusing on atmosphere and intensity, a strong riff carries the section for a few moments before the next outburst propels you back up.
Comparisons with fellow countrymen and label-mates Paramnesia are inevitable. Both are French bands that could be easily categorized as post-black metal, with two twenty-minute tracks. Paramnesia though is full-speed-ahead almost all of the time. In Cauda Venenum relies on building up tension, the interplay of guitars with strong riffs, steady yet bombastic drumming that relies on a lot of cymbal crashes, and the contrast of the ultra fast sections with those that are mid-pace. Different approaches for different bands reveal how impressive and diverse the genre has remained, even when some seem to thwart it from straying too far from the path. This will silence that, for it fits right in with what is occurring today and the not-so-distant past with all its blazing glory. In Cauda Venenum is the kind of album that is guaranteed to get your attention, as its strong atmosphere and intense vocals are everything that works within this style. Yes, even solos exist, if only for a moment because the music within this album is too busy tearing your face apart to be complex on the level of pretension, which coincidentally is almost exactly what the album cover looks like.