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A nature-themed atmospheric black metal album about beings that hibernate for most of the year to enjoy a brief period of life during spring, “They Awoke to the Scent of Spring” is grim majestic epic work. The music is split into four parts of which only the first two feature lyrics. Lustre’s style encompasses two extremes, one based on raw black metal guitar and the other based on pure-toned synth and both carrying all the advantages and limitations of their respective ranges. Ultimately they suffer from a fairly limited vision on the Lustre musician Nachtzeit’s part.
Part 1 begins well with aggressive raw BM guitar noise that burns steadfastly for much of the track until a repetitive synthesiser melody loop takes over and dominates the rest of the piece. Repetition and monotony reign for what seems an excruciating eternity. Part 2 starts out well enough but like Part 1, it’s slow-paced and endlessly repetitive as though stuck in a groove it can never escape. The vocals are reverb-heavy slurry that slide over the tremolo guitars.
The later two parts are very different, essentially being atmospheric non-BM acoustically styled material but still as slow and minimalist as the previous tracks. The fourth part is a ghostly piece composed entirely of a looping field recording of falling water and a wistful circular synth motif.
That Nachtzeit wants to emphasise the circular narrative of nature and life, and implicitly suggest that humans are also part of this order and if they try to subvert it, they will come to ruin (because as we know, Nature always bats last in The Final Innings, setting things right again and punishing those who ignore her laws); but beyond stating the obvious, he does not do much else with the music. Imagine reading one of those experimental novels where the backgrounds and furnishings are described in exquisite detail and the characters’s clothes receive equal fastidious attention, but what they do, say and think is never said and remains unknown, and you have some idea of how this album pans out.
What we have is a technically well-crafted work of ambient black metal with little to say and that really has nothing to add to the genre overall. In a field where there are so many atmospheric black metal acts performing nature-oriented work of often high standard, Nachtzeit must do more to stand out from everyone: he needs to think more about music composition, how to structure and create music that has direction and which can soar, because this is where the Lustre project founders.
Being a man who likes most of his metal with blastbeats, growls and insane guitar solos, this release by Lustre was a bit of a change in what I am used to. I started getting into ambient, atmospheric black metal out of curiosity, and ended up quite liking it. It eventually caused me to stumble across Lustre, a one man band of great atmosphere, yet great primitiveness. This album is no exception and while it is not for everyone, I couldn't help being enticed by its mysterious and darkly pleasant sound.
I will firstly say that this is an incredibly slow-paced record, with little change in dynamics and tempo throughout. It is for this reason however, that this album gets its beauty and atmosphere. The songs immerse you in a vast musical soundscape, especially 'Part 1' with its first half being semi-gloomy and melancholic. Halfway through this piece there is a change in sound which is the highlight of the album. The uplifting riff to follow hits you like a proverbial wall of hope and enlightenment. The guitars and drums may be minimal, but this really packs a punch. 'Part 2' is another mesmerising wonder, but after a while it starts meandering and loses its grip on the listener. Could have had the same sort of change as its predecessor to make things more interesting, but never mind.
The 'vocals' (so to speak) only appear on the first half of the album, and although they are indecipherable they add nice atmosphere. The distant cries of anguish echo like a voice through a grey woodland, and are used in perfect moderation. As mentioned earlier, the drums are only just audible in the background, but in this genre that is exactly where they should be. Letting the keyboards and synths take the lead is a grand idea, and shows that despite Lustre's love for basic minimalism, he is a mature and intelligent songwriter and musician. The guitars are nice and dreamy as well, and it is only because of their presence that this album is still in the metal genre. That and the vocals of course.
Parts '3' and '4' head off in a completely different path. All kinds of links to black metal are severed, and the album becomes purely instrumental. 'Part 3' is an especially calm and soothing track, yet slightly unsettling. It pretty much stays the same all the way through, but the melody is awesome so it doesn't matter. 'Part 4' is literally just nature sounds with some eerie choirs and sound effects. Still hauntingly atmospheric, if not mildly unnecessary. I would say that it doesn't make the album better or worse, its just.......there.
They Awoke To The Scent Of Spring is an album that will divide people. Some will view it as a darkly wonderful, graceful journey into the mind, where others may find it's pace frustrating. I will go with the first opinion, and say that this is a mature, majestic release. The only real downfall is that given the length of some of the songs, there maybe could have been room for more musical ideas. However at the end of the day this genre is all about just sitting back, and letting it's simple beauty take you over.
Worth checking out for sure.
Especially since it became a larger part of my musical diet, I have stood by the belief that there is a style of black metal for just about any occasion. Although the typical surface black metal image evokes equal parts cheese and Satanism, just about every mood and energy has been touched upon by someone. With that in mind, it should be less of a contradiction to say that Lustre’s “They Awoke to the Scent of Spring” is one of the mellowest albums I have heard in ages. Although the production and guitar tone tends to indicate something that would fit under the black metal umbrella, the direction, tone and lilting atmosphere all give the impression of tranquility- something rarely seen in metal to begin with. Slow, gloomy and brooding, Lustre has created a notably ungrim soundtrack for meditation. It’s great when it suits the mood, but if a listener isn’t in the mood for something so ambient, the ponderous approach will wear out fast. Don’t forget to bring your sleeping bags, gentlemen.
In an album structure seemingly optimized for a vinyl release, Lustre has split the album into four pieces. More importantly, the first and latter sides take a separate approach to achieve the dreary ambiance. While the first half adopts a melodic, depressive sound, the third and fourth segments eschew black metal entirely in favour for a much cleaner sound, halfway between traditional dark ambient music and post-rock. This separation aside, “They Awoke to the Scent of Spring” has a pretty uniform mood throughout. The atmosphere betrays sadness and grief, but not to the extent where hope escapes completely. Regardless of style, Lustre creates a feeling that requires no effort or challenge on the part of the listener. For a year that’s seen quite a few cerebral black metal albums released, Lustre offers a refreshing change of pace.
That’s not to say, however, that Lustre’s music is entirely mindless. Although each composition tends to stick with and exploit a couple of ideas each, Lustre mastermind Nachtzeit builds these compositions well. While there’s not quite enough depth to satisfy an attentive listener, the gradual changes in percussion and synth textures are subtle and effective. The first half is very strong in this regard- although there’s enough repetition here to make Varg Vikernes check his watch, occasional changes (in the case of the drum pattern) or additions (in the case of the pleasant synth arrangements that pop up at the end of parts one and two) are a thoughtful bolster to the otherwise monotonous structure. The instrumental production is well-chosen; the music has an incredibly soft touch to the ear. Even the vocals- practically inaudible whispers that barely survive the mix and reverb-sound designed to wash over the listener. Nachtzeit’s vocal work has been tweaked with atmospheric effects to the point where it barely sounds like a human voice, and more like a subway train passing by. It’s unsettling to hear at first, but the completely declawed sound of it doesn’t warrant more than a moment’s consideration.
Although the first side’s listless approach leaves something to be desired from the wakeful listener, it is a well-composed and executed ambient twist on the black metal formula. The second half is even more listless however, and this is where the conscious interest seems to drop off completely.”Part III” adopts a similar compositional approach to the first two, albeit with a clean guitar this time. “Part IV” takes the ambiance a step further, throwing out the drums and guitars and introducing a pleasant rain sample to pair up with the synth. Once again, there is absolutely nothing offensive or jarring to the ears, but Lustre doesn’t create enough tension in the sound to make it all that interesting. Side B lacks the stirring melodies of the first half, but the melancholic atmosphere remains.
I guess I would tend to call this ‘sleeptime metal’ if I were to give it some sort of arbitrary label. The slow, slothlike music is an effective soother, and the rain sample that ends the album is proverbial icing on the cake. It’s not an album that excites in any way, but it’s a pleasant piece of ear candy that demands nothing of its listener. As an ambient album, it succeeds, although I wouldn’t recommend listening to this while driving or operating heavy machinery.
Minimalistic, laid back, relaxing: several words that are not normally associated with black metal. Sweden's Lustre conjure up four tracks of ambient, atmospheric black metal that is best described by the three words that start this review: minimalistic, laid back and relaxing. Perhaps several other words could be ascribed to the music of Lustre, such as harrowing and haunting, but heaviness, speed and most things usually associated with metal are missing. Main man, well the only man, Nachtzeit (ex-Hypothermia, Mortem Parto Humano), shows that he has a softer side with four tracks of minimalistic ambiance, that only briefly touches the realms of black metal.
Saying that “They Awoke to the Scent of Spring”, the third full length by Lustre, is heavily influenced by nature would be an enormous understatement. Every second of this album's forty minute run time has some organic or natural vibe to it. Hell, “Part 4” is nearly eight minutes of rain and nature sounds, with only slight keyboard embellishments near the end of the track.
Everything about this album is slow and minimalistic. We're not just talking slow tempos, although the music is set at a snail's pace, but slow as the album’s forty minute playtime feels like a few hours. The slow guitar lines and plodding keyboard accompaniments stay at the same pace: never building up to any great musical crescendos. The minimalism begins to wear out its welcome after repeated listens, as I constantly find myself waiting for some great change in dynamics or tempo that never happens. This is a relaxing listen, and it really serves well as a musical backdrop for a long walk, but it requires no extraneous thought or introspection. Lustre’s music just seems to be content existing: nothing more, nothing less.
Instrumentation on this album is very difficult to describe, as it is so minimalistic and sparse. The guitar tone sounds fuzzy and muddy, with about zero reverb. An ambient backdrop of lush, distant keys is present through the first three tracks (out of four), maintaining a wall that nothing seems to be able to break free from. Sparing sections of airy keys are utilized throughout, sounding almost like the keyboard equivalent of water dripping. Drum work is comprised of light cymbal work and the occasional distant snare pop. Typical black metal instrumentation is nowhere in sight: no trem picked guitars or heavy palm muting; no double bass or blast beats. If the musical description seems a little strange, then just imagine the pace and atmosphere Burzum’s “Tomhet” or some of Ildjarn’s ambient work. The closest thing to standard black metal here are the vocals. Thankfully the vocals are even more sparingly used than the subtle keyboard lines, as the grating, squelched, black metal rasp sounds jarringly out of place amid the slow and ambient soundscapes.
The album, even though it only has four tracks, is definitively divided down the middle. Two tracks, “Part 1” and “Part 2”, utilize the sparse vocals and fuzzy guitar lines weaving in and out among the keyboard backdrop and water like key lines. “Part 3” has clean, acoustic guitar lines (still gratingly slow, mind you) weaving in and out among the keyboard backdrop and water like key lines. “Part 4”, as I already stated, is just rain falling, with water like key lines ending the album. Two parts pseudo-black metal nature music, two parts extremely organic, nature music. Seeing a pattern here?
“They Awoke to the Scent of Spring” seems to just exist. There are no musical climaxes or crescendos. The music is exceedingly slow and goes nowhere. There is no tension in this album. There aren’t even any parts that hint at a slow smolder that is ready to burn. It just exists. If Nachtzeit’s intent was to create an album that is ambivalent to everything, he succeeded. This is a relaxing listen that requires no effort on the listener’s part. This is mostly recommended for long walks in the woods. If you need to shut your brain off and just exist, this is for you. This is not a bad release, but it’s not for everyone. If you like your metal with metal in it, steer clear.
Written for The Metal Observer
Nachtzeit's Lustre is a project that certainly has an aptitude for trying my patience, due largely to the length of the tracks, and the dearth of activity occurring within them. That's not to say that the Swede's music is bad by any means, but it takes a particular mindset, and maybe a really long walk, to appreciate what it's all about. Like the 2010 sophomore A Glimpse of Glory before it, They Awoke to the Scent of Spring is a moderate success, if you're willing to give it the time and space it requires to bore its solemn, draining emotional expanse into the landscape of your mind. Just be warned in advance that not a whole lot happens here, and there's a very 'stretched-out' sensation to the first two (out of four) songs.
Lustre performs a hybrid of black metal and ambiance which is essentially a contradiction of the pioneers in the field, those Scandinavian acts which made a name for themselves with brazen, infernal tremolo rhythms, blast beats and occultist/atavistic incantations. Compositions glide along at a snail's pace, dowsed in vast swaths of synthesizer atmosphere, while the sadistic rasping of the vocals is slowly meted out in arching, hypnotic patterns that will eventually overtake your initial resistance; like a serpent casually treading through the garden on its journey offer you temptation. The fragile, distant drumming rides beneath the swell of the keys, and the guitars are molded into incredibly minimalist, melodic sequences that don't feature the sorts of textured chords and dissonance one might expect. There are some slightly busier pianos (like near the end of "Part I"), and Nachtzeit seems to excel at writing calming ambient/clean guitar instrumentals ("Part III"), not to mention the dreary and numbing finale "Part IV" which I thought was the best track on the album.
They Awoke to the Scent of Spring is nature music, as suited to environmental introspection as it is to the listener's own regrets and reflections. Grandiose, bloated hymns of rain and rime, offering very little warmth despite its title, but more than enough loneliness. Summoning lite. The low key production values on the record barely intrude upon its effectiveness, and there is nothing harried or complex happening anywhere throughout its 40 minutes of woe. It wouldn't kill Lustre to write patterns that are more interesting or evocative, or to add a few excess layers of texture and sounds, even if through additional samples and not synthesizers or guitars. But, as minimalism is one of the core values in this project, it's unlikely the creator would implement much else here. Even the lyrics, used through the first two tracks, are incredibly sparse. To his credit, though They Awoke... is just as captivating as its predecessor. Not a great album, but give it some time, and you'll find yourself wallowing in its tragic and uncluttered depths.