So it seems after the polarizing response to Alcest‘s latest offering, Shelter, some metalheads are afraid that everything he touches will turn into a psuedo-sentimental Slowdive-worship band instead of the ‘post-black’ or ‘blackgaze’ monikers coined by passionate (and often clueless) fanatics. The Lantlôs, project coined by the German musician Herbst, has released some of the most iconic albums in the movement — with both .neon and Agape mixing esoteric themes with atmospheric black metal and tinges of alternative and post-rock to often pleasing results.
When Neige, the former vocalist parted ways with Herbst, the black metal seems to also have disappeared. Though, unlike the tepid Shelter, Melting Sun is still undoubtably a metal album. There may be no blastbeats to speak of and there are frequent breaks from the heaviest moments in the album, these breaks only increase the impact of the heavier moments. It’s a psychedelic and alluring post-metal experience that continues the experimentation Agape only hinted at and despite being a departure, it’s everything that Lantlôs has been hinting towards since the pivotal .neon.
Melting Sun is a melting pot (pun unintended) that is both diverse and surprisingly streamlined. It takes opposite ends of the music spectrums and somehow connects them into a highly-focused and addicting mix. The infectiously thick and melodic rhythm guitaring akin to signature Devin Townsend tones rumble under the metallic wall of sound, shimmering leads often tremolo picked with the thick, distorted bass creating a catchy undercurrent to the sound creating a very shoegazy and arguably industrial affair. The arguably poppy clean vocal hooks are pushed to the back of the mix, but still make some of the most memorable moments of the record. Every track feels like it’s built on a similar foundation, but each have twists of their own that maintain a constant sense of momentum, but all stand by themselves admirably.
“Azure Chimes” is perhaps the catchiest of the bunch, fittingly starting off the album with a great clean riff before abruptly throwing you right into the massive doomy, shimmery chords and tremolo picking. The lead-work is introduced in an unfamiliar technical way, eerily reminding of the kind of complex riffing later Deftones work would be built on. Both “Cherry Quartz” and “Aquamarine Towers” reek so much of Isis but in an enjoyable way, and still manage to be distinctive. The songs are far from simplistically written and constantly move through different ideas — though none quite as jarring as the djent-like riffing in the latter end of “Jade Fields.” It catches you off guard in the most pleasing of fashions, experimentation done in all the right ways. Had you told me that Lantlôs had turned TesseracT on us I wouldn’t have believed it — let alone the idea that it sounds great. But it does.
The only thing that lets this album down is the structuring — though the last two tracks aren’t bad, I feel that ending things on a softer note doesn’t serve it best. Though “Golden Mind” does have some gorgeous melodies, it would have been better being towards the middle of the album, with perhaps “Aquamarine Towers” finishing off the record in a similar way to Agape‘s “Eribo: I Collect the Stars”.
Regardless, Herbst really shines as both a songwriter, guitarist and a vocalist on this album. His vocals are far from perfect, but it’s almost part of the charm and he seems more in-tune with exactly what the music needs — he wrote it, after all. He also seems to have thrown off many of the shackles the black metal community lumped onto him and created something genuinely unique and faithful to his original vision. An infectious and addicting soundscape with plenty to keep any post-metal enthusiast occupied for days.