Not to detract from the pleasure of discovering Ponte Del Diavolo's debut album, the Italians didn't include any tracks from their three EPs released between 2020 and 2022, so the spells that await us are all new. The band mix the heaviness of old-school doom with a haze of guitars inherited from black metal, while adding gothic and darkwave touches to create a mystical whole... now, they've got our full attention!
The energy that drives Fire Blades From the Tomb's opening moments is surprisingly frenetic. Demone jump down our throats with rage, their black metal roots immediately imposing themselves, while Elena Camusso's vocals, emerging from behind an opaque veil of reverb, are closer to punk. Not exactly what you have in mind when you think of occult ritual! The hypnotic slowness, the menacing heaviness, the hooded figures, the candles and all the rest will come later, in the first few seconds you're being torn apart by the angry fruit of some unholy invocation... But don't panic: Ponte Del Diavolo also knows how to slow things down drastically, and this first track feels like a rollercoaster with its brutal breaks in rhythm.
This initial contact was a wake-up call: the band knows how to play fast and doesn't necessarily intend to obey preconceptions. We appreciate the density provided by the two bassists, but also the vocals. Mixing darkwave and doom works well: spectral and earthy, ethereal and overwhelmingly heavy... Elena Camusso's voice evokes that of Siouxsie Sioux in bursts of post-punk flamboyance, an authoritative and disturbing priestess. The gothic charms of Ponte Del Diavolo, just like Covenant's pleas, capture us between rage, despair and fantastical embellishments (the theremin still has the power to evoke other realities). The seductive slowness of Red As The Sex Of She Who Lives In Death has its effect: there it is, all the mystical decorum with its slow, hypnotic, haunting repetitiveness, and its intensity crescendoing to the liberating black metal explosions.
When it comes to influences, Ponte Del Diavolo mention Darkthrones, Electric Wizard and The Devil's Blood. We'd happily place them alongside Wolvennest or their compatriots Messa for esoteric mystery, although the latter are more in the atmospheric avant-garde. Fire Blades From the Tomb is an album full of energy, thanks in particular to the nervous drums that give the tracks a conquering punch and the ritual all its aggression (Nocturnal Veil is not lacking in bite, Zero exudes a mixture of dementia and panic to which the few words of Italian mixed with the incantations add a bewitching conviction).
The band respects its elders but plays with the recipe. The arcane menace of doom, the frenzy of black metal, the gothic overtones... The cover of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' The Weeping Song in the conclusion drives the point home, somewhere between modernisation and reverence, and it's furiously catchy, thanks to the song's anthemic potential as well as its funereal tone. The original, which was already hard to get out of your eardrums, takes on a mystical theatrical twist that's a joy to behold. This heavy, feverish occult ritual leaves you spellbound. If you're planning to visit a few ruined temples in the next few days, this is an ideal companion.