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A promising dose of atmosphere. - 70%

ConorFynes, August 8th, 2012

At nineteen minutes in length, "Wijsgeer & Narreman" does a great job of demonstrating the sound and style of this new atmospheric act. Though the two guys involved have both been around the Dutch black metal scene for a while, Laster (Dutch for 'Libel') only came together earlier this year. Channelling the sounds such likeminded bands as Burzum, Drudkh, and even Austere, Laster delivers a solid dose of black metal that sounds much larger than nineteen minutes would normally permit.

Stylewise, Laster has planted themselves firmly within atmospheric black metal- 'depressive' black metal, some might call it. There is no sense of darkness or dread in the music. Laster instead craft a tableau of melancholy and introspection. In this sense, this two-piece are doing something that will feel instantly familiar with fans of the style. There are the ebb-and-flow songwriting dynamics, the tortured vocals, and spacious chord progressions that I readily associate with the 'depressive' sound. While originality may not factor into what Laster does, the beauty lies in their skill and execution. Although initial listens finish with the impression that "Wijsgeer & Narreman" is fairly generic and safe with their approach to atmospheric black metal, there is more to it than first meets the ear. As they say, the devil is in the details. Laster's production here is a perfect balance of lo-fi haziness and intelligibility; it's never grinding on the ears, but there's enough fog in the recording to obscure the fine print. Whether it's another layer of guitar, or a touch of reverb that may not have been noticed the first time around, it really gives "Wijsgeer & Narreman" the feeling of replay value that few black metal demos tend to have.

Sadly- in spite of a gorgeous execution and solid sense of composition- Laster's greatest weakness lies in their derivative sound. There's a great deal of beauty in how it all comes together, yet when listening to this, I feel as if I'm window shopping through the catalogues of a few different black metal bands. Burzum and Drudkh are the two big ones; the central riff in "In levenskolken, in dadenstorm" feels practically swiped from Drudkh's "Blood In Our Wells". As a result, I can't say that Laster have made a huge impression with this demo. I'd suspect that this band will find their own identity in the future, however. As it stands, Laster has some great ingredients to work with, and fans of the brooding atmosphere that this style commits so well will be pleased with what this Dutch duo have accomplished.

A Demonstration of Excellence - 90%

CrimsonFloyd, August 6th, 2012

Is there anything quite like hearing a standout demo? Knowing that a band is capable of creating a captivating recording right off the bat just makes the future feel bright. For that reason, the Dutch black metal duo Laster’s debut demo is worth noting. In a mere a nineteen minutes Laster manages to make a resounding statement of intent.

Wijsgeer & Narreman consists of three rich and emotional pieces of melodic black metal. The most obvious inspiration here is early Drudkh. The guitars have the same dense and fuzzy tone while the drums are played in a similarly loose and sprightly style. The melodies waver between depressive and cathartic moods, at times managing to express both sensations at once. The vocals are high pitched shrieks a la early Burzum. There is a subtle post rock/metal influence here as well, though it’s seamlessly integrated into the blackened soundscape. The production is excellent; all the instruments sound rich and full and everything is well balanced.

Wijsgeer & Narreman has an excellent arc, ebbing and flowing between sentimental highs and lows. “In levenskolken, in dadenstorm” shifts between an inspired, virile verse and a somber chorus. “Tot eenheid verweven” reverses the order; the depressive element is central, while bright moments of inspiration spring forth from time to time. The title track is just beautiful. A reflective, melancholic melody loops like a lullaby. The rhythms constantly shift, teasing out a variety of feelings. Eventually, the song reaches an acoustic interlude that leads to an intense outro of shivering post-metal guitar work.

It’s hard to think of Wijsgeer & Narreman as a demo. Between the excellent performance, stellar production and the holistic flow of the recording, it feels more like an EP released by an established band than a debut recording. If I had a record label, I would be trying to get Laster’s pen to paper ASAP, because if this is what the band can do with a demo, then there’s no telling what they can achieve on a full length.

(Originally written for deafsparrow.com)