Review Summary: Evolution in its purest form.
There's something to be said about trying something different. Admittedly, in most cases I couldn't give two ***s about whether an album is revolutionary or not. I've come to appreciate execution far more than innovation. However, when execution and innovation come together and meld into something that is as derivative in its quality as it is advanced in its sound, the product is far superior to the sum of its parts. That's what makes Agape
such a good album. It feels like the rather disjointed nature of these elements in its predecessors has finally reached a mutual ambition and been constructed in unison to create what is essentially the pinnacle of Herbst's vision up to this point.
Lantlos' self-titled debut was an attempt at a foreward thinking black metal album sprinkled with the dusting of elements quite foreign to the genre (these elements are probably what initially gave the band that retarded "post black-metal" genre tag) and set the groundwork for the sound that would eventually evolve into what is Agape
. Lantlos' second effort, .neon
, was a further voyage into the ideas presented on the self-titled, albeit honed to a much greater extent. While .neon
is a wonderful album in its own right, it still felt as if the jazzy interludes and noire atmospheres were separate elements melded together as best as they could with the underlying black metal concept. It was more or less an album that truly sounded like the sum of its parts.
is different. There is no one element that can be separated from another in the 35 minute running time of the album. Sure the undeniable jazz influence is still there. The saturated noir atmosphere is still there. The black metal influence is still there as well (along with a much more doom oriented sound, especially as far as the guitar work is considered). Yet, the album sounds much more like Lantlos than it does any of these elements separately. The equilibrium between influences along with a perfectly evolved personality makes Agape
much more than just a sum of its parts. As I mentioned before, the album itself only runs what seems a meager 35 minutes, but in context this short running time works quite well for such an ambitiously saturated album. Were the album to be much longer it would cave in under the weight of its own ideas.
As retarded as the genre definition "post black-metal" is, I feel like this is the first album I have ever heard that could actually take the term and give it more meaning than the usual "happy black metal with effects and pretty lyrics and/or 13 minute buildups". Quite honestly there is very little in the way of actual black metal on the album, and that only adds to the appeal. It has taken the sound that has been so well established over the many years since its inception that morphed it into something completely and utterly different. The tracks focus much more on the texture of the sound presented rather than solely on making good riffs. Of course the melodies and songwriting are superb, for an album as ambitious as this couldn't survive without good writing to back up the ideas.
However, I feel as if what makes the album so great also makes it difficult, especially for anyone coming into it expecting black metal. The pacing is strange to say the least, and to fully understand what the album is actually striving for it is essentially required that the listener give it more than a surface glance. It is an album album, or rather an album that's appeal is diminished by quite a large margin when only listened to in parts or on a song-by-song basis. Consequently I feel the same way about most black metal albums so I don't see that as too much of an obstacle really. Yet, I feel that Agape
is an album that is unfortunately doomed to be misunderstood, at least for the time being. Innovation is many times met with resistance as it is introduced, but with time it becomes more understood and accepted. Agape
is an album that is truly worth the effort of listening to, and I think it will be some time before something of equal value is heard again.