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Divided into four parts, "Of Strength and Solace" combines raw minimalist black metal guitar rhythms with electronic keyboard melodies and percussion to conjure a music of dark soundscapes with themes of isolation and meditation in and on nature, and perhaps feeling at one with the natural world. Parts 1 and 3 are united by their lyrics which are parts of the same piece of writing while parts 2 and 4 are purely instrumental tracks.
The music might be comparable with Burzum's mid-1990s "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss / Filosofem" period: one or two-fingered pure-toned synthesiser melodies playing in a repeating loop over a continuous background of steaming buzzy BM guitar wash where Burzum had definite guitar riffs instead. It's not bad music and the tones do have a cold, unblinking and frosty space-ambient feel to them but after many repetitions their sound becomes hard, blunt, monotonous and perhaps more impassive and unfeeling than Lustre main man Nachtzeit had intended. The main point of music like this is to articulate feelings we all share about the confusion of modern life and the yearning for things to be simpler, more straightforward and closer to the natural world into sounds and tones that we can readily identify with and connect to, letting us know that we as individuals aren't alone in having such feelings and worries. Music that attempts this but which falls short of the goal or overdoes the alienation aspect still gets my respect; this EP is an early release in Lustre's body of work after all and it's better at this stage that Nachtzeit puts his music out in the public domain with all its flaws as well as its highlights as part of the process of improving and refining the music. Synthesiser substitutes for instruments that might be out of reach price-wise or for other reasons can only go so far and when they reach their technical and expressive limits, human imagination and trial-and-error improvisation must take over.
Parts 1 and 3 are similar in featuring those synthesiser melody loops over a minimalist BM-guitar rhythm background and Nachtzeit's slurpy snake-like vocals. At least Part 1 has a long introduction of rousing raw guitar battery which gives a hint of what Lustre could do if Nachtzeit could be persuaded to drop the keyboard parts. In Part 1, the synthesiser lines are too brisk and give the impression of being happy and more appropriate for children's electronic pop songs. Part 3 is more melancholy but the constant repetition of the melody makes the song very static and lacking in development. Parts 2 and 4 are atmospheric mood pieces with some chamber music or orchestral music elements and capture dark brooding emotion well. Again though there is not much progression on these tracks, no exploration of how low a person might go in feeling lonely and alienated. The problem is stated but that's as far as it goes.
I sometimes wonder if Nachtzeit isn't completely confident in his ability to create black metal and sing BM vocals by himself without support from those annoying synthesiser melodies - the black metal music and his vocals almost disappear behind the keyboards and some of their impact is blunted as a result. He need not worry about his ability to play BM because when the synthesiser is absent, the raw and aggressive black art roars out loud and proud. Nachtzeit, please let's have more of that kind of music!
One man black metal projects are no in short supply. Most of these “bands” exist solely in someone’s basement or dungeon or bathroom, which is usually at the sole member’s mother’s house, since he never moved out, even though he’s getting frighteningly close to a midlife crisis, but I digress. There are some (read: a minuscule, infinitesimal percentage) of these solo black metal projects that are actually worth spending a little time listening to, and most of these are the types that actually get out of their vampyric dungeons to see what the wide world has to offer. Don’t get me wrong, there are some reclusive, basement dwelling hermits that churn out good music, but it’s quite rare.
Usually when these solitary types break out of the dungeon, their loner mentality forces them to peruse nature. It gets you outside and maybe even into some sunlight to prove that you won’t vaporize by being exposed to daylight. Best of all, you can still be a loner because you’re in the middle of the freaking woods. Lustre is one such one man band that broke out of the basement and made it to the outdoors. Multi-instrumentalist Nachtzeit, the sole driving force behind Lustre, was so impressed with nature that he created a vessel in which to tell you about his epic nature hikes and past camping trips.
“Of Strength and Solace” is an EP by Lustre that was released in the spring of 2012. The EP showcases four tracks, all aptly named Part 1, 2, 3 or 4, which surprisingly, show the order in which they were placed onto the EP. While the EP is divided into four tracks, there are two different approaches at play here. Parts 1 and 3 showcase some type of black metal instrumentation buried beneath a strong wall of upbeat and bouncy, almost jubilant, sounding keyboard lines, while Parts 2 and 4 showcase only the upbeat keyboard lines with no black metal instrumentation, at all. Even the tracks that showcase the black metal parts wander off into sole keyboard lines with a light and airy backdrop of synth. Perhaps this is Nachtzeit’s way of showing his music can be as solitarily confined within nature as he is.
“Part 1” starts the album off with a gritty and distant guitar line coupled with inaudible bass and a muffled double bass beat. Over top of the muffled black metal is a sole keyboard line that sounds refreshingly airy and light. After two minutes of wandering, the background black metal switches gears and delves into an almost droning buzz while the keyboards build more prominence with a simplistically bubbly and light key line jumping to the forefront, and it stays there for the rest of the EP. If you listen with headphones or the right speakers you can make out some distantly tortured screams here and there, which are quite fitting with the distant black metal in the background, but they are extremely sporadic. “Part 3” pretty much showcases the same thing: an airy keyboard line played over a distant and muffled black metal song. The remaining two “songs” do the same thing, except the black metal is left out. “Part 2” is basically a short, minimalistic keyboard piece complete with blowing wind and nature sounds and “Part 4” is an ambient slash atmospheric keyboard outro.
My major problem with “Of Strength and Solace” is the distance between the light and airy keyboards and the black metal instrumentation. You have to strain to hear the black metal. Imagine if you will, Nachtzeit walking through the woods, when he hears a river in the distance. Rather than walking towards the water, he turns sideways and completely parallels the river at the exact same distance that he first heard it at: the water never gets louder; it just remains a barely audible diversion, something you can hear only if you focus on it. The black metal instrumentation is rather basic, with repetitive chords and simplistic drumming. I have a feeling that the overall impact would be much greater if one of two alternatives were pursued: (1) drop the black metal and focus on the keyboards and ambient soundscapes or; (2) increase the volume of the black metal so you can focus on it more than just in passing.
“Of Strength and Solace” is a decent album, but it could be much better. The keyboard lines are rather captivating and the black metal sections are borderline trance inducing, when you can hear them. Nachtzeit’s passion for the outdoors truly shines through on this release and just serves to reaffirm my opinion that the better one man bands tend to be those who appreciate things other than blacking out the windows with cardboard and aluminum foil. Lustre’s “Of Strength and Solace” isn’t a powerhouse or completely original, but it’s still enjoyable. If you dig ambient and atmospheric black metal check this out, but if you’re looking for actual black metal, steer clear.
Here we have another EP by the Swedish ambient black metal band. This band has certainly become one of my favourites in the entire world of black metal and I have been following the works of Nachtzeit closely. Once I was able to get my hands on this EP I pressed play and expected nothing short of brilliance.
What I got was an excellent EP. The problem with it is that Lustre hasn't changed much at all throughout the entire discography of the band. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Nachtzeit is able to create amazing keyboard focused ambient black metal time and time again. Yet, I still feel as if I would certainly like something new in his music.
The tracks are all named Part 1-4. This is typical of all Lustre music. Part 1 and 3 are the most typical of Lustre and excellent songs that could fit onto any album of his. The typical wonderful floating keyboards are here with excellent melodies as always and the droning buzz saw guitars are in the background and the occasional static shriek is emitted from the wall of sound. Lustre has always created an excellent atmosphere suitable for cold winter nights and even warm summer nights while looking at the stars.
Tracks 2 and 4 are slightly different in terms of Lustre. They are shorter (around 2 minutes in length) and consist of just synth. The final track (Part 4) has a deep dark sounding atmosphere to it, which is relatively different from normal Lustre. Most of the time the keys are higher notes and have a "bouncy" feel to them but this one is slow and drawn out and far more "doomy." This is an excellent closer to the album and leaves the listener with a foreboding sense that something isn't finished. Maybe it's just me though.
Regardless, this is an excellent short little EP from Lustre. Not much has changed since the bands first releases but like I said, that is not a bad thing. I eagerly await the full length album that is due out this year.