Is it just me or has 2017 already come out of the gates swinging? Isn’t January synonymous with down time? Here I am, still trying to pay due respect to my favorite releases of last year; and here comes Laster, kicking up dust, shaking the walls and rattling the cookware. If you like your black metal with a side of…well, all kinds of other shit, then come on in and help yourself to Laster’s new sophomore album, Ons Vrije Fatum.
Enough of the formalities, yeah? Laster hail from the Netherlands, and they have come to your shores to shake things up. Eponymous ditty “Ons vrije fatum” is a bang-up opener, a forceful statement of purpose which introduces us to the core of Laster’s style without giving away too many of the surprises which lie in wait farther into the record. That core is comprised of modern US-style black metal with a nice braise of hardcore’s straightforward aggression. The song’s flow from chiming chords and blastbeats to clean car-song melodies and back again is masterful, the result of a very steady songwriting hand. The only hiccup is the short outburst of gang vocals at 1:16. It is unexpected and, for this non-fan of gang vocals, thankfully never repeated. It is also a foreshadowing of the many hiccups to come. Some of which are delightful, some just kind of perplexing.
The next pair of hiccups jump out at us early in the second track, “Binnenstebuiten”, in the form of a twangy slide guitar and some chilled-out hand drums. This is an instance where the unexpected elements work in Laster’s favor, elevating what is at heart a loping and not terribly interesting segment to new levels. At around the halfway mark, after our first introduction to some soulful chanting, we return to the signature bright-eyed blasting, and all is well.
And so it goes throughout the Ons Vrije Fatum‘s 55 minutes: Long stretches of Laster absolutely killing it with their modernized brand of black metal, accented or interrupted by strange timbres which any band who is not Solefald would never think to throw into the mix. In addition to the aforementioned Easter eggs you’ll find flourishes of sequenced synths, clean tremolos ensorcelled by reverb, swingin’ saxophone doom, echo-laden spoken word, scratchy electronica, and a whole caboodle of surprises I won’t ruin for you. The album is jam-packed from wall to wall with ideas; absorbing them all in one sitting can lead to fatigue, but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun.
There is an old saying about the process of creation: “Let’s throw a bunch of things at the wall and see what sticks.” Laster apparently threw everything they had lying around their rehearsal space—and it was a very sticky wall. Ons Vrije Fatum is the result of a band who does a few things very well and wants to do a whole lot of other things too but has not yet figured out which other kinds of things work and which ones need to be thrown out with the bathwater. Which brings us to another old saying: “Kill your darlings.” Learn to say goodbye to parts which, although you love them, do not work. To do so is painful yet wise. Just because one of your bandmates sequences this wicked awesome synthesizer bit doesn’t mean it belongs on the album somewhere. There are bands who make a career out of jamming every square peg into every round hole they can find. It rarely works, and here’s hoping Laster moves forward by doubling down on their strengths or strengthening their weaknesses.
3.75 Out ov 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
(Cover photo VIA)