L’Ouverture Des Fosses is not a demo. It’s not even Oltretomba’s debut. But L’Ouverture … is listed as a demo on Metal Archives.com and—even though the band themselves disagree with this listing—that was good enough because a morbid curiosity urged me to get to know the people who conjured these deranged, dark rituals.
“All three of us have had several other bands together over the last decade, all of them to varying degrees influenced by metal and horror themes,” Machoire, Oltretomba’s drummer, explains. “At some point it was inevitable that we also formed an actual metal band.”
“We all have a passion for dark and apocalyptic music,” the band’s organist Grand Duc elaborates. “The music of the bands we had together in the past was mainly based on ideas that Lord Fungus and Machoire came up with. The guys often invited Iver Ask Overgaard and me to join and help with mixing and play organ or other instruments at concerts and on recordings. L’ouverture Des Fosses was based on intuition and ideas we all had in the moment of the making of it.
Oltretomba began in 2011, released their true debut the next year, a 7” single.
“One goal for the band is to never change, and we’re always trying to recapture the sound of the first single, ‘Clef de Garangot.’ We would like to stay static, in other words, using the same basic instruments and recording equipment every time, but it’s difficult as we record fairly rarely. But we always record live in the studio with one take only, so you never really know what comes out.”
Oltretomba aim to “create the sound of the afterlife, [with] no progress, no ‘bridge,” according to guitarist/bassist/vocalist Lord Fungus. “For this album, we wanted to approach Ancient Egypt as a theme, as done previously by many of our idols, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, etc. Also, during the time of the recording, I was reading a book in French about the Japanese biological warfare during WWll, which was used as another source when writing the lyrics.”
As for why this Danish band’s lyrics are in French, Machoire explains that while Lord Fungus is Danish, he grew up in France. “French is pretty much his mother tongue. When we first started out, we decided to explore surgery as a theme, greatly inspired by this great ancient French encyclopedia of surgery and diseases in our possession.” Even though they’ve abandoned the surgery angle, Machoire says they still sing in French, loath to evolve as they are.
The evil atmosphere of L’Ouverture is palpable, whether in the traumatizing clamor of “Thoth” or the eerie lo-fi respite “Requiem Pour Grand Duc.” Even deeper than the pestilential tape hiss, something smoky and timeless lurks in these tracks.
“[L’Ouverture …] was recorded during a week last summer in a Cold War bunker near the football stadium in Copenhagen,” says Lord Fungus. “[We] recorded everything into a 4-track cassette and threw in some overdubs, and then we flew in the genius lead guitarist and long-time friend Vince Prince aka the Powerslave.”
“Iver Ask Overgaard helped out with the recording and sound production,” Grand Duc adds. “He also gave me some good ideas of what to play on the organ. In general we didn’t make any plans or structures before recording. We just recorded what came out—as we usually do—just using our intuition . . .”
Caligari Records released L’Ouverture Des Fosses on tape, and copies remain available, but are dwindling.
Machoire says: “Caligari approached us after first hearing us on our Bandcamp, and it just so happened that we were finishing up L’Ouverture, which we offered him, and he accepted it.”
It may not be a true demo, but Oltretomba’s latest opus is like having your brain dug out through your nose by dark, hypnotic rhythms. Droning beyond doom, and more fetid than mere death, L’Ouverture Des Fosses takes metal back to its animalistic roots. These six tracks reek of an ancient evil, and Oltretomba’s latest tape demands your immediate attention. Demo or not.