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Lustre is a Swedish atmospheric black metal project I've been meaning to check out for awhile, but I never really got around to it until now. I'm sitting here listening to this EP, entitled "Serenity", for a second time, and it's really not that difficult to comprehend. This is not a new sound in the black metal realm and certainly has been done by countless bands in the past as well as in the present.
There are only two songs here to delve into, and they are 13 and a half minutes and 7 and a half minutes long, respectively. The first song "The Light of Eternity" is the lengthy one, with its droning wall of guitars in the background overshadowed by somber, minimalistic keyboard lines. These keys are the focal point of this EP. Repetition is a huge element in this music. These songs do not change much. They focus on one or two ideas and drag them out for the duration of the song, and through this EP's 20 minutes, we are only given a few musical ideas to examine. This is not a bad thing and is a staple in this style of black metal. At the same time, however, this sounds extremely similar to many other bands and does nothing to differentiate itself.
"Waves of the Worn" is fairly similar to the first track but differs greatly at the same time. We do not hear that melancholic, melodic wall of guitar noise in the background. Instead, it is a purely ambient track only containing keyboards and no vocals. While both of these songs are beautiful, this has to be the better of the two in terms of ambiance. This EP is actually fairly solid for Lustre's starting point, but really is nothing special and we have all heard this before in some way or another. I will be diving into the rest of his stuff, though. This EP has certainly aroused my curiosity.
Admittedly there’s not a whole lot going on in Lustre’s Serenity. The sound is minimal, even by black metal standards. A lone keyboard churns out melodic lines whilst in the background a guitar lays down a constant backdrop. It’s all highly minimal but Lustre do this style a lot better than most of their contemporaries.
The thing that strikes me most about Lustre is the fact that the keyboards are actually louder than the guitars, and I really do mean a lot louder. The guitars role within this music is very minimal, all focus is placed on the keyboards and the occasional hissing shriek. Thankfully though, the keyboards are interesting enough to lead the music. The melodies they play have a very solemn vibe to them, highly emotional and beautiful; they work well in establishing a mood of somber melancholy.
For those not accustomed to this sort of music though, the repetition of the minimal keyboard lines may begin to wear thin on most people out there. For me though, I find the repetition soothing and tranquil. There’s no desire to be energetic or forceful within Serenity. Instead the music aims to create an atmosphere of almost indifference. The album as a whole sounds really quite languid yet remains brutally effective for doing so.
Aside from the keyboards, the vocals also play an important role. A constant whispered shriek, they sound solemn and far off; aloof would perhaps be a good way to describe it. In fact, this album as a whole sounds distant, as though it was recorded in some far off desert. Whilst Burzum’s Filosofem might have created a cold sonic soundscape through the use of ambient black metal, Lustre takes this to its furthest extreme.
With two tracks, Serenity presents two very different halves. The Light of Eternity rhythmic guitar backdrop and melancholic keyboard lines serve as a contrast to Waves of the Worn flowing keyboards and lush ambient soundscape. There’s more going on than meets the eye if you’re willing to give it the chance.
However, due to the esoteric nature of the album, this is a release I don’t often come back to. When I do, it’s great and I love it, but I have to be in the right frame of mind for this music to take effect. The somber atmosphere often becomes TOO somber, with the melancholic keyboard lines never letting up; the music can aptly be described as monochrome. And whilst I’m a huge fan of depressive music, I find Lustre to only hit the spot when in the correct state of mine, if not then I’ll just put on something else.
In fact, that’s probably Lustre’s biggest flaw. Whilst looking at their music from a purely musical standpoint, they’re pretty much flawless; the atmosphere is often too lonely and distant to fully appreciate when in a regular mood. Thus I wouldn't recommend this to first time black metal listeners or even regular black metal fans as some of the other reviews have pointed out the lack of firm metallic elements and have criticized the albums sparse ambient deliver. If however, you’re looking for something bleak and hopeless to the extreme then you’d be hard pressed to find something that hits the spot quite like Serenity. In my opinion, Lustre is one of the best black metal projects of recent times. Sparse, hopeless and ultimately mood music, Serenity conveys a somber atmosphere like no other.
Debut release for the one-man atmospheric black metal project Lustre, "Serenity" establishes the act's modus operandi of raw minimalist BM-guitar noise rhythm background wash bolstering repetitive pure-toned synthesiser melody loops and raspy vocals set back in the mix. It's a short modest recording running at just over 21 minutes with two songs of unequal length.
First track "The Light of Eternity" gets down to business straight away with the tremolo guitar rhythms set on permanent revving-up and two sets of cold space-ambient melodies that sound as if they're being played on marimbas or glockenspiels. One of these repeating melodies alternates with Lustre leader Nachtzeit's own singing which appears both angry and anguished. The shimmering guitars hold a lot of latent power in their restraint; you feel that any time soon they're going to explode into their full furious glory and soar off in all directions throughout the cosmos. If only those keyboard loops would get out of the way .... er, sadly, that's not to be as the guitars eventually bow out and the keyboards and pained vocals continue.
"Waves of the Worn" starts strongly and dramatically with brooding sweeps of warm synth wash that might evoke feelings of longing for wide swathes of boundless, silent plains under huge, cold, grey skies in far-northern lands where the sun shines but weakly for a few months each year. Nostalgia and melancholy are feelings that might be called upon. Not a bad piece if it were half the length it takes and had further development of the shifting drones. As it is, the whole thing sounds generic and manipulative. It's as if we're all supposed to know what this sort of music refers to and are expected to fall over in preordained raptures.
Not a very original start to a long career but other better known bands have started off with much, much worse and come good so Lustre shouldn't be written off yet. I would prefer less reliance on keyboards and more emphasis on the black metal elements. There's considerable potential for solid, powerful music that can be menacing, spiritual and beautiful.
The first song of this EP consists of a gentle, breezy sweep of guitars in the vein of early Lugubrum or Sacramentum, pinned down by a patterned sequence of Filosofem-esque keyboards and humanized by a weak, harshy and randomy wail. Lustre certainly succeeds in creating a good hypnotic effect to which mostly contribute the keyboards - they resemble a time-worn musical box.
The second song is weaker. It's made only from synth - synth pulses, the kind of sounds which are the soundtrack of the gradual revealment of a grand and breath-taking lost continent or new planet. These pulses are constantly repeated in order to create a simple, soothing and somewhat spiritual song that becomes nauseating after a while.
All in all this small album conjures a mysterious atmosphere and is a pleasant, apollinical, calm and pretty unique piece of music. A thank you to the special Ashen Light who made it known to me.