posted on 6/2010 By:
You’ve been here before.
Here, amongst these waves. Waves that pretend to be glaciers, but at their heart are warm and cradling, not cold and isolating. It is the terrain of ebb and flow, slowly nodding heads, subdued melody and a lush sense of growth. Within this terrain can also be found the voice of madness and the fast staccato of the devil’s battery. Be not fooled, for these are merely strangers in a strange land; passing visitors in a realm which they can never truly call home. But you may call it home. You have many, many times.
If that diversion into literary self-indulgence didn’t clue you in, Lantlôs is another of the increasingly numerous bands toying with a mixture of black metal and post-rock. On .Neon, the band’s second, multi-instrumentalist Herbst is joined by Alcest’s Neige on vocals, crafting a recipe which is first and very foremost of the ambient/atmospheric/post-metal/rock variety, with blackened flavors merely the garnish on top. There may be blast beats, slightly raw guitar tones and (half-) piercing tremolo riffs, but the music that is actually written, not performed, is focused almost completely on creating the embracing feel of bright and moving post-rock, not misanthropic black metal. These are chord progressions more fitting for the soundtrack of a Focus Features movie than for golden age horror. Only Neige’s harsh vocals would fit the latter, which sound great amid the few truly blackened parts yet a tad out of place when delivered over more soothing tones.
The probable longevity of .Neon will not be harmed by this genre splicing, as many recent albums have shown how truly brilliant it can be, but instead by the lack of the moment. The best songs from one side of the black-post combination to the other all work towards climaxes -- those instantly memorable and chill-inducing passages that demand the listener to just bow down in musical worship. (Think the climax of Wolves in the Throne Room’s “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots” or part two of Agalloch’s “Our Fortress is Burning.” Yep, you know.) .Neon is mostly devoid of these jaw-droppers. Opener “Minusmensch” moves between typically atmospheric and faster blast-laden material, seemingly building towards one of these musical and emotional peaks, but only arrives at a pleasant but easy-to-ignore chord swoon. “Pulse/Surreal” builds to a climax better than the other songs, starting with a soft section of jazzy drumming and Opethian vocals, continuing through the album’s best true mix of the styles and into probably the only real black metal on .Neon. Even this, the album’s best moment, applies the vice grips of enthrallment only moderately tight, but that hardly hurts what is already an excellent track.
Would .Neon sound fresher had Alcest and Les Discrets not already knocked our collective socks off earlier in 2010? Undoubtedly. Would that make this a classic album? No. It would still have all the makings of a good album that thrills initially but loses some of its spark after a month or so. Where Lantlôs fails is by not utilizing the shattering brunt of black metal or the full subtlety of post-rock. Where they succeed (and as the score shows, they do indeed succeed) is by providing a pleasant and strangely soothing 40-minute listening experience. Unfortunately for the band, it is hard to shake the feeling that this is the album doomed to expose the genre’s clichés and may just leave many listeners puzzled at the impression that they’ve been here before.
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