Poison Leather – Trapped In The Abyss Of Chauvet Review

Art has been a part of the human experience since, well, the dawn of the human experience. Ever since Grunk dejectedly drew a sad face with Oong’s blood after bludgeoning him for even considering to steal Grunk’s supper, art has been a way of immortalizing mankind’s struggles and triumphs, capturing the emotions observed and memorializing the observations of such for generations of the far-flung future to ponder and decipher for themselves. Art has been used to teach; it can be used to learn. It is, ultimately, a way of man communicating with himself in the metaphysical, across boundaries of time and space in our ever-present desire to make sense of this whole existence thing.

In the southeast of France lies the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave, known for its immaculate cave drawings preserved from as far back as the late Stone Age. What’s fascinating is that most of the animal drawings on the walls are that of predators, as opposed to the hunted cattle often found in other Paleolithic art. It injects an element of danger, a vicious ferocity into the works that is only further exacerbated by evidence of cave bears found within the depths of the cavern as well. It was a brutal and merciless time to be alive, and Poison Leather do a fantastic job of bringing such brutality to life on their debut mini-LP, Trapped In The Abyss Of Chauvet.

Release date: March 15, 2021. Label: Unsilent Tombs Records
A collaborative project between Mike Leprosy (Iron Curtain) and Javi Bastard (Teitanblood, Graveyard, Körgull the Exterminator), Poison Leather plays to black metal’s strength of resurrecting the past — though rather than focusing on faraway castles or medieval battles, the Spanish duo are taking a more barbaric first-wave approach to the mysteries of man’s earliest ancestors. Witching metal thrashers like “Sculpting The Grave,” or “Ivory And Bone,” get the adrenaline flowing from the onset of the album. These straight burners are juxtaposed against the pounding mid-tempo of “Into The Cave,” and “The Plight Of The Priceless Treasures Of Lascaux” (the latter of which refers to another Paleolithic cave in found in the southeast of France); both of which simply bleed with Under The Sign Of The Black Mark‘s ominous, reverberated energy and ritualistic atmosphere.

The Black Mark comparisons don’t end there. In fact, “L’Art Et Magie” borrows its introductory riff almost wholesale from “Enter The Eternal Fire.” However, with the track quickly diverging (after a badass explosion, of course) into chaotic blasts and flurrying tremolos, it takes the song an entirely different direction than that of which is arguably Black Mark‘s doomiest number — making the riff feel like a nod to the album that is undoubtedly the primary metallic muse of Poison Leather’s style.The underlying chanting alludes to the simplistic, single-note synths found in Bathory’s timeless work, and the Manowar-derived riffing in the mid-section drives the final nail into Black Mark coffin. The lead guitar introduces new elements, squealing and diving across the walls like flames licking the stalactites of Chauvet. The furious solo over the unforgiving blasts of the drums call back even further in Bathory’s legend — bits of The Return… can be found in the flurry of upper-register guitar wizardry.

Still, it’s not all Bathory worship. As already hinted at above, bits of early Sodom creep their way into the pigments adorning the band’s vision of Chauvet, as does the Hellhammer-esque “Into The Cave” (complete with a d-beat run and a resounding “OUGH!”). The aforementioned “L’Art Et Magie” throws a surprisingly melodic, Iron Maiden styled twin lead that breaks out of the bridge following the chaotic guitar solo. The thunderous fuzz of the bass almost feels like a nod to early Rotting Christ or Varathron, particularly at the onset of “Ivory And Bone.” The lead work is spicy and definitely carries the torch of thrash energy, even across the somewhat slower numbers and provides a point of familiarity across the tracks of Trapped In The Abyss Of Chauvet.

The production is surprisingly clear and modern sounding for something so entrenched in the ethos of first-wave black metal. Yet it doesn’t put too much polish on things; it services the songs and carves out a deep, cavernous atmosphere that allow all the instruments to breathe. The way the synths and vocal layering sit just under the primary muscle of the songs give them maximum impact — highlighting just the right moments and creating a full, structured sound. The core of the music is still dowsed in the onyx vomit of early black metal. The brief ambient interludes between tracks further the experience of the band’s debut as a mini concept album. Trapped In The Abyss Of Chauvet is a well crafted balance of barbaric ferocity and ancient mysticism, further immortalizing the mysteries of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc by utilizing the most primitive tools black metal has to offer. Packaged in a rip ridin’ frenzy through the dark, precambrian caverns of France, the first offering from the Spanish duo make their point with the subtlety of a crude club to the skull: the past is not only alive, but it’s as vicious and bloodthirsty in its primal struggle for survival as it ever was.

The ‘Hillaire Chamber,’ as found in Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc.

Posted by Ryan Tysinger

I listen to music, then I write about it. On Twitter @d00mfr0gg (Outro: The Winds Of Mayhem)

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