When Lantlôs released .neon last year I will not deny that it absolutely blew me away. It managed to be an obvious post-rock-influenced record but it still adhered to so many black metal conventions that it contained absolutely everything I look for in both genres, compressed into one just absolutely chaotic yet stunningly beautiful record. What started off as a project by the bands spearhead, Herbst, became something much more when Neige(of Alcest fame) was added on vocals. Compared to the self-titled debut record, it was quite a step up in my opinion, as it felt somewhat confused on where it wanted to go. With Agape, things have definitely changed, and I can tell you the focus has shifted far more towards post-rock than black metal, upsetting that balance and leaving this record noticeably weaker than .neon. But do not fret, for this is still a great piece of music, and considering how high the bar was, it’s a competent release.
The record starts out with a heavy, dissonant noisescape of chunky riffs and screeching vocals, somewhat reminiscent of Altar of Plagues, declaring immediately that this is not going to be the same story as .neon. While this chaos continues for a while into the song, it eventually quiets down into post-rock territory. For the most part this is where the album will stay, after the second track “Bliss,” which is the only one relatable to the previous record.
Lantlos's .Neon, easily one of, if not the best records of 2010
The guitar style on this record is a lot different from the previous record, as there isn’t much in terms of blast-beated tremolo-picked black metal riffs. Instead, the riffs are somewhat more like down-tuned and heavy (almost sludgy) smashes that come in at the height of some of the chaos. In terms of the post-rock aspects, there were a lot more clean, delayed tremolo-picked licks that float along the calm bass lines and clean vocals, carrying the songs but not being particularly intrusive to the atmosphere created by the other instruments. The drumming on here is definitely a lot calmer than previous efforts, where blast beats were common. On this record they are somewhat of a rare occurrence, most of them being in the ballsiest song on the record, “Bliss.” There were a lot more effects placed on the drums as well, as can be heard on the intro to “You Feel Like Memories,” and this adds to some of the dreamy elements of the record. Vocally, Neige is still at the top of his game, belting out the screeches which helped establish him, as well as his competent clean vocals, which despite the increased emphasis on post-rock are less common than the extreme vocals.
Lantlos(From left): Neige, Herbst.
Lyrically, Agape is a lot more abstract and surreal in nature than the straightforward emotional rhetoric of .neon and the debut album, although you can still see that the lyrics are influenced by Herbst’s past of drug abuse and whatever other personal struggles he was going on about on the previous record. With the high emphasis on post-rock and the general slowing down of things, you would be surprised that the mood and atmosphere of this record make this some of Lantlôs’s darkest recordings to date. While the record does have its fair share of dreamy, warm, post-rock passages, a lot of them are used to push the album into some of the bleakest moments of the band’s career. While .neon was upbeat and melodic, Agape is brooding and dissonant. In a sense, it’s more similar to the debut for mood, but with the level of song writing from the previous record that made the band so popular.
For fans of Lantlôs this seems to be a dividing point. Those who loved the debut but were disappointed with .neon seem to love this record, whereas those of us who caught on to the band with last year’s release are somewhat disappointed with Agape. Although I didn’t love this record to the same extent as the previous one, I will commend Lantlôs, as this is a competent release which didn’t just stick to a formula or cut and paste whatever people seemed to like. Either way this is a grower, and even though on first listen it may seem disappointing, a few more listens show what an emotional record this is. This will definitely appease your appetite for Lantlôs material. 8/10
BEST TRACKS: Intrauterin, Bliss, You Feel Like Memories.