Review Summary: The little black metal that could.
Herbst : Guitar, Bass, Drums, Keyboard
Tom Innocenti (aka Morthvargr) : Vocals, Guitar, Keyboard
I'm about the last person that should be reviewing this as I know next to nothing about black metal; it's conventions, traditions, lore and background, how it's 'supposed' to sound, and why the music feels the way it does. Regardless, Lantlos' self-titled debut is a marvelous sonic achievement that runs the full range of what one might except from straight up black metal, along with some rather unanticipated experimentation that, while none of it could ever possibly change the genre the band falls into, manages to shake things up just enough to make you smile at their willingness to try something a little different, and the confidence with which it is executed.
Blast beats and grating, screaming harsh vocals abound, but even within these generic aspects, Lantlos somehow manages to sound incredibly fresh and convincing. Neither of these elements are overused, and when they present themselves, they not only sound great (the production isn't crystal or anything, but it's noticeably crisper and louder than most BM) but also blend exceptionally well into the band's most potent weapon: their wonderfully smooth and inexplicably catchy acoustic breaks. Featuring some truly inspired bass work (it's honestly some of the best I've heard in metal, not through technicality, but through restraint, ingenuity, and fluidity) intuitive drumming that sounds like almost nothing you would normally here from BM, and finely-tuned strumming that fluctuates only slightly, these change-ups both stand apart as emotionally charged and masterfully performed and increase the visceral impact of the decidedly intense heavy sections.
Speaking of finely-tuned, one of the things that attracted me to, and made me love black metal was how in most cases, the riffs are designed to sound almost as if the same note is being held for minutes at a time, but in actuality, there are very small to moderate changes in the tuning that give the riffs a kind of wavelength-imagery to them, as if you were running alongside a river that was constantly rising and falling in small increments as it follows the landscape. Problems can occur however when the tunings are either so
slight that you can barely detect them, or they simply don't do much to advance or expand the overall sound of the song, resulting in repetition or staleness. Lantlos doesn't suffer from this. The tuning changes are much closer to moderate and really give these songs a power and an essence that is as inviting as it is aggressive, eloquent as it is abrasive.
The vocals are top notch, though I can't say much else about them, mostly because I tend to ignore the vocals in the music I listen to. That being said, I don't have to push past the vocals in order to enjoy the instrumentation here, as I usually find myself doing, as they blend and commingle amazingly well with the feel and progression of the music. They also aid in some truly epic build-ups and climaxes (particularly in Kalte Tage) that few other black metal bands I've come across can put down with any passion (Wolves in the Throne Room comes to mind as one of those exceptions).
From beginning to end, you will never find yourself even remotely bored with anything going on here. If nothing else, there's always a little something in the background to listen for, and many of Lantlos' sonic elements can become lost in the mix. But as you discover them, you realize that their songs are very rich and full, not because there's a wall of sound, but because the assortment of tones and pitches, and the manner in which they are arranged, allow your ears to take them in one at a time. They still achieve a nearly overwhelming assault on your senses, but do so in a way that is far more pleasant (and as a result of all this, replayable) and considerably more absorbable that you'll likely be expecting.
I have trouble finding anything wrong with this album. Besides being one hell of a debut, there really isn't a single element that I don't like. Everything fits, works, blends, and satisfies. There is despair and desire, passion and pain, sadness, regret, but also hope. Over in a delightfully complacent 39 minutes, you will likely need to give this a few spins before you can put everything together. Once I
did, I found that as the last track ended, I was deep in my thoughts, in touch with my inner self, calm, content, and wanting to start it all over again. Do yourself a favor and let Lantlos take you somewhere I think every one would benefit from going.