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Relaxing, Minimalistic... - 65%

TheStormIRide, October 6th, 2012

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