Black metal/ post rock hybrids are popping up all around the world. Considering the variety within both genres (Tortoise is as different from Godspeed You! Black Emperor as Darkthrone is from Emperor) it is exciting to see the wide array of fusions that are emerging. Thus far, Lantlôs have reached the greatest heights in this young subgenre. Lantlôs fuse post rock/ metal in the vein of The Red Sparrowes and early Pelican with a heavy dose of jazz, a touch of shivering tremolo and sharp, screeched vocals. The elements fuse together with complete and utter ease. One never stops to say, “Oh, here is a black metal passage! Now here comes a post rock part”. The elements hold together as if they were never apart in the first place.
For “.Neon”, Lantlôs’s second release, the band is composed of Herbst, who plays all instruments, and Neige (of Alcest fame) contributing vocals. Herbst is obviously an extremely talented musician and probably has been professionally trained in jazz. His drumming is just gorgeous, grounding the music in a series of lavish jazz patterns, only breaking into pulsating blast beats during the more intense moments of the album. The guitars, bass and piano are all full and lush, giving body to the intense emotions of the songs. For the most part, the riffs are post rock/ metal but the main riffs of songs like “These Nights Were Ours” and “Neige de Mars” clearly have their origin in black metal.
Neige’s vocals really put the album over the top. His impassioned screeches are much less muted on “.Neon” than they were on the previous Alcest album, “Écailles de Lune”. Neige also contributes clean vocals to the song “Pulse/ Surreal” and I must say this is the best clean vocal performance of his career. His voice is robust and sullen, hitting each note to perfection and capturing the somber spirit of the lyrics.
Thematically, the album tackles issues of alienation and dehumanization in modern society. The music, vocals and lyrics come together to capture this modern dilemma and to a small degree, overcome it. Each song reveals the perspective of an observant human recognizing the degeneracy and absurdity of modern society. In recognizing this degeneracy and absurdity one transcends it, insofar as he or she no longer sees it as an inherent and irreducible dimension of who he or she is. However, this is not overly romantic music in which the human spirit tears off the chains of a crippled society and flies to great heights. “.Neon” expresses a much more controlled, restrained and realistic epiphanies.
The first song, “Minusmensch” (“Minus Man”) captures this style perfectly. The lyrics describe a drug infested, industrial city full of dispirited faces. The music shifts back and forth between reflective, jazzy passages and swelling moments of post-black metal. When the music finally breaks out into a sweeping post-rock crescendo, it is notably restrained. A single layer of guitar, bass and drums play out the peak—there are no layers of wailing guitars, blazing horns or wild fanfare. “Minusmensch” ends with a restrained, and thus a believably profound moment.
It is obvious from first listen that Lantlôs have created an exceptional fusion of post rock and black metal. However, I think the conceptual theme of “.Neon” is where the fusion reaches its highest point. Black metal and post-rock have both fought against the normative view of the human being. Post rock has embraced intense, neo-romantic emotions that run against the grain of the modern ideal of the controled and reserved human being. Black metal is attacks Judeo-Christian notion of the human being by embracing the darker, more primal dimensions of humanity. “.Neon” captures this shared thirst for a richer human experience and explores moments of overcoming the limited, modern notion of humanity through simultaneously dark and ecstatic waves of emotion. While many other bands have fused the sounds of black metal and post rock, Lantlôs has done so at both a musically and conceptually higher level.