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Sleeptime metal. - 60%

ConorFynes, December 16th, 2012

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.