Review Summary: Grab your umbrella, it’s a Saturnian Bloodstorm out there
Through an exceptionally prolific run of output since 2019, Lamp of Murmuur has emerged as one of the more widely-acclaimed projects of the black metal underground. Broadly speaking, the burgeoning discography can be broken into two groupings- first, an early wave of raw black metal recordings, and second, a more recent collection of rather experimental offerings fusing black metal with Gothic and post-punk tendencies. With the project’s latest LP, Saturnian Bloodstorm
, it can be said decisively that Lamp of Murmuur’s third era has arrived.
The biggest surprise upon first listen to Saturnian Bloodstorm
is that it sounds remarkably conventional (by the standards of the black metal sphere, not the world at large). While previous releases operated in a very distinctive space, this latest effort can be easily characterized as within the mainstream of the genre, laced with obvious echoes to various established artists. The most essential touchstone by far is Immortal - depending on the moment, both the buzzsaw thrashiness of At The Heart of Winter
and the straight-ahead aggression of that band’s more recent works.
This isn’t to say that Saturnian Bloodstorm
is simply the work of a tribute act. For one thing, in its more subdued moments there remains a link to the mysterious vibes of previous record Submission And Slavery
, and for another, this album suggests too many comparisons to a whole host of prominent black metal bands to simplify its formula down to strictly “Immortal worship”. Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore the record’s link to one of its genre’s defining acts, indeed from the moment that opener “Conqueror Beyond The Frenzied Fog” begins to play (a raucous jam, that one).
With all that being said, this is an undeniably solid release when taken on its own merits. Throughout the forty-minute runtime, my head was almost without exception involuntarily nodding along, whether to a gritty riff, a thrash-like solo, or to an appealingly throat-shredding vocal line. Everything is shrewdly arranged, there’s a balance of heaviness and melody, and the album’s duration is perfect for a release of this type. All seven tracks serve their purpose (even the obligatory instrumental interlude) without suffering a letdown - indeed, the record finishes on a high note with the closing one-two punch of “In Communion With The Wintermoon”, with its symphonic elements, and the sprawling title track.
Overall, I’d prefer that Saturnian Bloodstorm
mark a one-off before Lamp of Murmuur embarks into unprecedented waters to carve out a fourth era in the project’s trajectory. The musical territory being trodden here is far from unique, and I’ve always admired the more innovative tendencies displayed in Lamp of Murmuur’s previous works. This isn’t to overly criticize this record though. Far from it: Saturnian Bloodstorm
is a well-constructed and well-executed journey through a classic
version of black metal, tropes and all. This might be a different look for Lamp of Murmuur, but the project’s winning streak remains intact.