When the cover art features rancid wolf/rat creatures with galaxy filaments for skin, you know you’re in for some dark shit.
Although this EP is my first exposure to the Italian duo of Lorn, their music hit me at such an appropriate moment (i.e., hiking through the woods at dusk) that I needed very little time to become accustomed to their sound. Their latest offering, Arrayed Claws, mixes treble-heavy guitars, frantic d-beats and somber, icy synths of black metal’s past into a seething attack that effectively blends old-school fury of bands like Darkthrone and Dissection with a bit of today’s production know-how and a healthy dose of dissonance.
The EP’s five tracks run almost 40 minutes, but Chimsicrin (drums) and Radok (guitar, bass, synth & vox) manage to keep each of those minutes interesting by employing many, many riffs and plenty of beat changeups. The overall mood of the songs together hints slightly at the potential to delve into mournful, cavernous post-metal at any second, but even during the dirge of the final track’s single note plucking and dungeon synths, the mood never strays into navel-gazing DSBM self-pity, instead acting as a cooling exhale from the previous tracks’ call to acts of bloody, primal violence.
“Disharmonic Feticism” drags you immediately into its world, and lives up to its name, by smothering the listener in warring Sinmara-like half-step intervals that creep and slink throughout the entire eleven minutes, letting up only to close out with a keyboard outro reminiscent of the wintry mountains old Immortal lore. “Abstract Trap” opens with more obtuse dissonant riffing and segues into such a perfect black metal riff you’ll be clutching those invisible oranges in no time – halfway through, the riffs become faster, more menacing and practically begs to be put to a bloody horror movie climax.
“Toybodïm” and “Süt-aq-Köl” immediately kick off into condensed versions of the previous tracks, utilizing the same tricks mentioned above to different effect, as best described by this excerpt from the label’s press release:
…two songs inspired by the Altaian mythology, two stages of a purification path. The first track takes its name from a black lake where the souls of the dead fall and become larvae; the second is a lake of milk where the spirits are purified, a placenta for the newborns.
Daaaamn! Extra points to the band for not retreading well-worn Nordic or Lovecraft territory for inspiration. These two tracks employ a bit more melody carefully arranged around that ever-present dissonance, while the band rarely pauses for air between the beginning and end of each song. As mentioned earlier, the closer “Aus Nebel Turm” is an atmospheric synth-driven coda to the chaos that came before it, but effectively serves as the refrain from the final minutes of the first two tracks. This is the EP’s lone weak spot – I kept wanting to hear a bit more variety in its seven minutes, but given the sheer variety and intensity of the rest of the album, a little simplicity isn’t entirely unappreciated.
Sonically, guitars are razor sharp with a fine patina of filth, lest you think the band are gearhead tryhards. The bass roars thru blown-out midrange tones but needs to be louder, dammit. Drums retain just enough thump to hear every hit clearly without feeling the need to record them through a phone, i.e., the Burzum Method. Vocals, where present, are appropriately pushed back in the mix and swimming in a thick layer of fog. Keyboards are used sparingly when the band is going full-tilt, and take center stage at several points with appropriately lo-fi patches.
Any fan of the healthy Icelandic black metal scene should be extremely pleased with this release, and I’ll be keeping a keen eye out for more Lorn in the future. Also I’ll be booking a trip to the Altai Republic ASAP to check out that whole black lake larvae soul thing.
4.5 out of 5 Toilets Ov Hell
Arrayed Claws drops February 3rd, 2017 via I, Voidhanger Records
Stab here to stream the EP on Bandcamp
Stab here to visit Lorn on Facebook