Lamp of Murmuur – Saturnian Bloodstorm Review

So, there I was. Curled up in an armchair, dark outside, shark pups snoring, decaf breakfast tea almost finished, review for the week just turned in,1 when what should I spy? Lamp of Murmuur sitting, alone in the gloaming of the promo sump, unloved, unattended and already released. Now, raw black metal isn’t really my jam. I’ll leave the loving of Old Nick and pals and their “production” to Cherd but Lamp of Murmuur’s sophomore effort, Submission and Slavery, saw mysterious LA mastermind M. move away from the lo-fi BM stylings of the debut, Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism. Indeed, Submission ventured into something approaching, I don’t know, lo-fi black’n’roll? That change of direction was enough to pique my interest and a feeling that, although this review couldn’t be anything but late, it needed to be written. Which darkened corners will Lamp of Murmuur illuminate with third effort, Saturnian Bloodstorm?

Well, black’n’roll has been largely abandoned but we haven’t returned to raw BM territory either, although shadows of both dance around the fringes of the glow cast by Lamp of Murmuur.  In fact,  we find ourselves principally in 1999 Norway, specifically At the Heart of Winter. Now, I’m not suggesting that Lamp of Murmuur has ripped off Immortal here but there is a lot of Immortal influence. Like At the Heart of Winter, we find Saturnian Bloodstorm fusing elements of thrash into the black metal template, to deliver a more riff-driven record, that feels grander in scope and one that is delivered with considerable skill. M.’s snarling rasp remains and I am glad to see he has not tried to emulate the more croaky, instantly recognizable sound of Abbath. Also blended into the mix are some early Satyricon and a few nods toward the fist-pumping moments of Bathory’s Blood Fire Death (there is even something of Quorthon in M.’s vocals on “Hymns of Death, Rays of Might”).

In many ways, Saturnian Bloodstorm is an unabashed ode to some of the black metal genre’s progenitors and stalwarts. And it’s tons of fucking fun. From the chugging stomp of opener “Conqueror Beyond the Frenzied Fog”, with the killer proggy solo M. lays about two-thirds of the way in, through the raging riff storm of “Hymns of Death, Rays of Might” to the epic Immortalesque “In Communion with the Wintermoon”, this record is joyous, delivering a massive medicinal dose of nostalgia but done a skillful way that, for all its familiarity, never feels derivative. Instead, it feels like Lamp of Murmuur is almost giving you a knowing wink, like “you remember this, right? Now watch what happens when I do this!” The heaviest, most blackened things on the record, “Hymns of Death, Rays of Might” and the title track closer, are the closest in tone and feel to early Lamp of Murmuur but are not devoid of other influences, while “Seal of the Dominator” and “In Communion with the Wintermoon” lean into an altogether grander, more cinematic sound that has elements of almost gothic black metal in. The synth-driven interlude “Descending from the Aura” even put me in mind of some of what Midnight Odyssey has done on its last couple of outings.

As an overall package, Saturnian Bloodstorm has a rough polish and finesse to it, both in terms of composition and production, that I really enjoyed. While Saturnian Bloodstorm is a long way from the raw black metal of Lamp of Murmuur’s debut, that DIY vibe has not been totally abandoned. The guitars have a great, rough edge to their tone and there is a harsh, lo-fi edge to some of the riffs on the likes of “Hymns of Death, Rays of Might” that dimly recalls Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism. The work on the drums, however, is a lot more interesting and you can actually hear them as distinct elements too, as opposed to a distant muffled thumping. This is a positive development if you ask me (Cherd may take a different view).

Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism felt like an artist doing a preliminary sketch ahead of the main work, while Submission and Slavery was a first, stumbling effort at the painting proper. Saturnian Bloodstorm is the real deal, however, and sees Lamp of Murmuur nailing it, from the broad brushstrokes to finer detailing. Held back only slightly by the significant degree to which it draws on earlier influences, with Saturnian Bloodstorm, Lamp of Murmuur has properly announced its arrival on the scene. While some of you will think I am being miserly with my score (perhaps I am), don’t let that detract from how much I enjoyed this record, nor from what I expect from Lamp of Murmuur on its next outing.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Argento Records (Europe) | Night of the Pale Moon and Not Kvlt (North America)
Releases Worldwide: March 26th, 2023

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  1. A 3.5, high enough to annoy Overlord Druhm but not so high as to give him cause to object.
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