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Shifting Focus - 85%

absurder21, November 1st, 2011

When Lantlos released .Neon last year I will not deny that it absolutely blew me away. It managed to be an obvious post-Rock influenced record but it still pertained to so many Black metal conventions that it appealed to absolutely everything I look towards in both genres, compressed into one just absolutely chaotic, yet stunningly beautiful record. Compared to the debut, it was quite a step up in my opinion, as the s/t felt somewhat confused on where it wanted to go. For Agape, things have definitely changed, and I can tell you the focus has shifted far more towards post-rock then Black metal, upsetting that balance and leaving this record noticeably weaker then Neon. But do not freight, for this is still a great piece of music, and considering how high the bar was, a competent release.

The record starts out with a heavy, dissonant noisescape of chunky riffs and screeching vocals, somewhat reminiscent of Altar of Plagues, declaring immediately that this is not going to be the same story as .Neon. While this chaos continues for awhile into the song it eventually quiets down into far more post-rock territory and for the most part this is where most of the album will stay, after the second track, Bliss that is, which is the only relatable track to the previous record. The guitaring on this record is a lot different from the previous record as there isn’t much in terms of blast beated tremolo picked black metal riffs, instead it seems that the riffs are somewhat more like down-tunned and heavy (almost sludgy) smashes that come in at the height of some of the chaos. In terms of the post-rock aspects, there was a lot more clean, delayed, tremolo picked licks that float along the calm bass lines and clean vocals, carrying the songs but not being particularly obtrusive to the atmosphere being held by the other instruments. The drumming on here is definitely a lot calmer than the previous efforts, where blast beats were common, on this record it is somewhat a rare occurrence most of it being in the ballsiest song on the record, Bliss. There was a lot more effects placed on the drums as well, as can be heard on the intro to You feel like Memories, and this adds to some of the dreamy elements of the record. Vocally, Neige is still at the top of his game, belting out the screeches which helped establish him as well as his competent clean vocals, which despite the increased emphasis on post-rock, are less common then the extreme vocals.

Lyrically, Agape is a lot more abstract and surreal in nature then the straight forward emotional rhetoric of .Neon and the debut, although you can still see that the lyrics are influenced by his past of drug abuse and whatever other personal struggles he was going on about on the previous record. With the high emphasis on post-rock and the general slowing of things down, one would be surprised that the mood and atmosphere of this record make this some of Lantlos’s darkest recordings to date. While the record does have its fair share of dreamy, warm post-rock passages, a lot of it is used to push the album into some of the bleakest moments of the bands career, while .Neon was upbeat and melodic, Agape is brooding and dissonant. In a sense, it’s more similar to the debut for mood, but with the level of song writing of the previous record that made the band so popular.

For fans of Lantlos this seems to be a divide. Those who loved the debut but we’re disappointed with .Neon seem to love this record; where as those of us who caught on to the band with last year’s release are somewhat disappointed with Agape. All though I didn’t love this record to the same extent as the previous, I will commend Lantlos, as this is a competent release which didn’t just stick to a formula or cut and paste whatever people seemed to like. Either way this is a grower, and even though on first listen may seem disappointing, a few more lesson shows one what an emotional record this is and that this will appease your appetite for Lantlos material.
BEST TRACKS: Intrauterin, Bliss, You feel like memories.