They came from the stars…

IDOLOS: Ahi Cab

Release year: 2020
Label: Anthrazit Records/Wolfmond Production

Basically, there are two ways the name Popol Vuh might be familiar to you: you’re into old German psychedelic rock, or you’re into the mythologies and epics of ancient peoples. When it comes to Idolos, a two-piece black metal band from France, it’s definitely the latter one. Popol Vuh the text is the mythical world history of the K’iche’ tribe of Maya, put to writing as the culture was dying out due to Spanish colonization and imperialism, but having its roots far longer back in history.

The reason I bring all of this up here and now is that in a rather unusual move for a European act, Idolos draw their inspiration from this old text, and from native South American mythology in general, interlacing it with elements that seem to learn towards the concept of ancient astronauts. Positing themselves as descendants of Atlantis coming from Venus with a message of some kind of secret history of mankind, they have – for some odd reason – decided to wrap it into the form of black metal.

And there appears to be a subtle hint to new age sci-fi cult Raëlism in the promo sheet for good measure, too!

Okay, it’s up to each listener to decide for themselves whether the concept of the band is interesting, intriguing, pretentious or even just plain stupid. I found a second-hand copy of the Popol Vuh a few years back and was quite fascinated by it, and I have a penchant for all kinds of weird and esoteric stuff, so I’m leaning towards the former. The thematic concept and lyrics are interesting, something out of the ordinary, and I dig the overall concept – and admit it seems to be a bit over the top, yes. But Idolos’ straight-faced delivery makes it work in their favour.

But how is this all reflected in the music?

Well, honestly, not to a great degree. Idolos’ take on black metal is mid-paced, atmospheric, melancholy and quite melodic, but also decidedly raw and unpolished. It balances somewhere between a more traditional expression and post-black metal, luckily anchoring itself more in the aforementioned, and thus keeping itself from becoming – musically at least – unbearably pretentious. The lo-fi leaning, raw yet melodic guitarwork brings to mind a recording like Satanic Warmaster’s early mini-album Black Katharsis to some extent. The harsh, gruff croaking vocals and unpolished, rough-around-the-edges mix both add an extra dose of raw to the pot.

Musically, it’s all quite fine, actually. The compositions, though leaning towards the lengthy with running times of six minutes or more for the most part, suffer neither from overreaching themselves, nor from excess repetition. There’s plenty of atmosphere here, and there’s an over-arching sense of timeless nocturnal despair. But the music doesn’t really emanate the concept. I don’t get a feeling of some cosmic messenger revealing esoteric truths of our world, or of ancient deities come from Mayan mythology.

Of course, it is up to the listener how they experience the music. Some out there might well find just these elements I don’t find in it. And some of those who, like me, fail to find it, might find the discrepancy between the music and the concept too disturbing. Whilst I would welcome a more seamless unity between concept and music, I can certainly enjoy this for what it is: good black metal.

In conclusion, what Idolos offer on their debut release is five tracks with a total runtime just shy of 30 minutes worth of atmospheric black metal that leans towards both rawness with a lo-fi edge, and post-black. They also offer a refreshingly unusual concept, one which they embrace with admirable conviction. The two don’t quite meet in the middle, but form a whole that is nonetheless worth checking out.

And perhaps the future will bring a more singular union of the two.

3.5/5

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