France has a lengthy history of quality black metal. Counting among their legion shapeshifters Deathspell Omega and horrors Blut Aus Nord, the French have nothing to prove when it comes to the kvlt. Back from the dead after a break in 2010, Mithridatic have decided to draw on the foulest corners of death and black metal to create their labyrinthine murk.

 

He Who Lies Underneath is a live album pulling the majority of its 9 tracks from their 2016 full length Miserable Miracle, with one coming from their two-track return EP The Hunt Is On. Now with Kevin Paradis of Svart Crown/Melechesh on drums, Mithridatic obviously spent a very long time woodshedding for this, because ….Underneath is colossal.

Openly referencing the likes of Kiwi death wizards Ulcerate and trans-dimensional sadists Portal, Mithridatic can take solace in the knowledge that, to this writer at least, they’ve got their own thing on the go. French black metal has a uniquely sneering, acidic edge to it, something they deliver in big trucks. With sole vocalist Guito calling to mind a Gallic, grotesquely-humoured Atilla Csihar circa Ordo Ad Chao, this entire release is not only brilliantly wretched and charred from the second it begins, but ferociously well-produced for a live record.

Freezing carpet-bomb ...For Terror And The Crowd and older blast-tomb Hunting Fever – which called to mind tank-fanciers Marduk – take the considerable vitriol and genuine, fevered aggression of their studio counterparts and stick them up your bottom until sitting becomes a test of spiritual endurance. The rhythm work is tight as balls as guitarists Romain and Alexandre throw trem-picked knives out of the speakers and ‘bass turbo’ Remolow pounds away with the grimmest countenance.

One of the marvelous things about live albums is hearing bands in their natural habitat and, if we’re all honest, seeing if they can do it. For black metal to work live, the lions’ share of its practitioners go for fire, blood and goats, but having had a brief glimpse of the accompanying DVD from which this recording comes, Mithridatic look like French blokes playing very, very hard with good lighting, armed only with the songs they’ve written, needing nothing more. The slower, more considered Oxydized Trigger Sabotage is carried with a revolting elegance that requires little other than itself, and closer I Will Harm’s latter-day-Mayhem rattling discord is perfectly delivered.

Seeing as the tunes have been expertly deployed, let’s talk sound. The balance is pretty bang on, with the more rhythm-focused guitar appropriately lower in the mix and the bass a wire-taut rumble. Hearing it being played clean in between tracks was eye-opening as well, but the thing most of you will notice during this pitiless, night-black onslaught is the drums. Tight beyond measure in both performance and mix, it’s no surprise that Mr. Paradis has treated this essential part of such a weaving, brutal sound with reverence, but everything around the engine room has its space, and can’t honestly be faulted.

 

With the material pulling from Nile, Altarage and even Italian one-man venom-spitter Blattaria, Mithridatic are a fantastically confident amalgam of top-notch influences distilled through their own bilious, deathly filter. Very much black metal from a death metal perspective, you could leap into this without the back catalogue and suddenly find yourself at the end of its 45 minute run time ragged with exhilarated exhaustion, completely ignorant of why your flat is now a burning mess.

 

To paraphrase Guito moments before Hell’s Compasses Point, c’est magnifique ces soir!

You can pre-order He Who Lies Underneath, out February 9th here!