Release DetailsLABEL Lupus Lounge
RELEASED ON 1/17/2012
posted on 1/2012 By:
Lantlôs has long been my favorite band of the wimpy black metal genre. In addition to the band's skilled melodic sense and intense drumming and vocals, their ability to channel the expected un-black metal feelings into a sound that at least pays distant homage to the genre's standards made 2009's .Neon one of the standouts of the young movement for me. So what does Lantlôs do? Make their next record sound completely different, of course.
But in the case of Agape, this isn't a disappointing thing. The stylistic shift is certainly surprising, but in this case, it merely serves to allow the band to express similar artistic ideals in a different and rewarding motif. The most noticeable difference is the basic lack of black metal-ish elements on this recording. The guitars are tuned much lower than past releases, making for an earthy and thunderous sound, which coincides with the restrained drumming for a slower, more doom-influenced approach. Neige's vocals remain in distant-shriek territory, but are almost inconsequential to the intent and atmosphere of the songs. Agape is an album that relies on it's instrumental tones and textures along with the basic melodic richness of the guitar and bass interplay to convey emotion and depth. There's less an emphasis on riffs and catchy drum passages as there is creating a dense, evocative wall of sounds.
The real problems lie with the basic constitution of the album as a whole. Despite how fundamentally enjoyable a sizable portion of Agape is, it's still disappointingly lacking in terms of rewarding content. It's bad enough that the disc runs a paltry thirty-five minutes -- relatively short for blasting death metal, and hardly adequate given the expansive and rambling nature of the music here. But this wouldn't be as big of an issue if Lantlôs made better use of the time allotted. For such a short album, there's an inexcusable amount of blatant filler present -- the first several minutes of lengthy opener "Intrauterin" are basically pointless, and the lengthy jazz interlude "You Feel Like Memories" is almost obnoxiously self-congratulatory and devoid of relevance. If I were to take the enjoyable and worthwhile elements of Agape and condense them to their own release, it would probably run around twenty to twenty-five minutes. The fact that the band took that amount of material and obviously padded and stretched it to a length that is still far from satisfactory is somewhat maddening.
Fortunately, the moments where Agape truly shines make it a more forgiveable fault in the end. It's easy to pick out the moments where the musicians are truly inspired, and just as easy to forget about the dull filler sections when they surface. The dramatic payoff at the end of "Intrauterin" makes the boring lead up worth the wait, and despite the annoying jazz break in the middle, the blasting energy and morose passion of "Bliss" feels sincere and heatfelt. The undulating melodic pulse and nimble bass playing of "Bloody Lips and Paper Skin" make it easily the strongest track here, and the climactic atmosphere and sweeping leads of "Eribo - I Collect the Stars" serves as a stirring and beautiful conclusion. There's no doubt that there's fantastic music on Agape -- there's just not enough of it, and the band is trying to fool you into thinking that there's more than there is.
This is one of those cases where my feelings as a music fan and as a reviewer are somewhat conflicted. Some astute readers may notice that I gave Agape a spot on my Top Twenty Albums of 2011 list despite the rather mediocre score you see above you. That's because, as a listener, I don't care as much that this record is short on the beef -- I can tune out the boring segments while I'm waiting to enjoy the good ones. And as for the album being short? I can just spin it again. But as a reviewer, it's my duty to point out that Agape really is a seriously flawed release. It's almost excruciatingly meandering and unenthusiastic at times, and the brevity of the worthwhile material here combined with the album's brisk running time makes it a tough sell as a legitimate full-length recording. I really wish they had cut out the obvious fluff and released this as an EP -- it may seem like a trivial distinction, but it would cause myself and others to evaluate the music in a notably different light. As it stands, Lantlôs's third album exhibits elements of genius that are unfortunately rather strained and defective. Its positive qualities are almost always in combat with its negative ones, but in the end, the strengths are enduring and inspiring enough for me to give it my recommendation.
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