There are a few bands, of late, grasping abundances of classic death metal in one hand and, with a fistful of innovation in the other, slamming the two together like some kind of malignant Large Hadron Collider®, letting that resulting abomination billow into our collective unsuspecting consciousness. Finland’s Lantern are such augurs of unrest, mixing a witches brew of black and death metal to trouble the mind and fray the nerves. Debut album Below brimmed with pulses of an alien Celtic Frost whilst hosting a virulent vein of dissonant black. Now, follow up Morphosis has arrived to further worry the feeble. Building on the heady dissonance of the previous record, Morphosis elevates and escalates everything that made that album great, but also further evolves their sound, perhaps even forging something entirely their own.
Lantern‘s character is actually quite tricky to presume. The band takes a classic example of death metal and bleeds it through a black metal filter with the occasional brevity and bluster of early grindcore, but the real defining element is the material’s propensity to thrash at the drop of a hat. Main composer and lead guitarist, Cruciatus, has found some kind of alchemical equation to writing progressive music that challenges the boundaries of its amalgam genres, whilst still managing to be remarkably lean. There is absolutely no filler on Morphosis and it doesn’t waste a second in its execution. “Black Miasma” storms through a whole collection of rugged thrash riffs before morphing with ease into atmospheric black metal melodies. Vocalist, Necrophilos, has a hoarse, echo-soaked delivery at his disposal, which lends each cut a particular muscularity and is responsible for a generous share of the material’s mileage.
Each song has its own identity; while “Black Miasma” and “Cleansing of the Air” relay with a series of creeping death metal chords and furious riffing, “Virgin Damnation” crawls through passages of doom metal nihilism, which works wonders when compared to its neighbor, “Transmigration,” one of the album’s most zealously hostile moments. One of the curious things about Lantern‘s output is that, despite the resolutely retro spine supporting their dark craft, they somehow manage not to fall into the same trap as the myriad throwback bands, mercilessly aping their favorite OSDM acts. Although it’s not to the extent of the often impermeable art-death that luminaries Ulcerate are plying, Lantern have concocted a unique signature with unapologetically old-school ingredients. That, in and of itself, is impressive enough. While the band will initially attract gluttons of that classic style, they may be a little surprised at the amount of esoteric character in the material’s composite parts, which will no doubt get to work weeding out some of those stinking casuals. Given the chance, however, Morphosis offers a whole host of riff-worthy opportunities.
Immediately recognizable from its predecessor is Morphosis‘ production. This time around, the band are bolstered by a burly and organic mix and everything, from the thick drum tone to Necrophilios’ bellows, are just so fucking bulky whilst still managing to retain that sharp clarity in the guitars. The production truly accentuates the material — I had listened to “Necrotic Epiphanies,” in all of its depravity, at least four times before I realized it was an instrumental. Particularly noteworthy is closer “Lucid Endlessness,” trading brusk rhythms for barren black metal sequences and perpetuating an environment to seamlessly conjure up all manner of overwrought adjectives. I’m sure you get the idea.
Progressive yet practical, extreme without pretension and disturbingly cohesive, Lantern stand shoulder to shoulder with label-mates Horrendous and Blood Incantation in both quality and potential. II: Morphosis is as good an example as any of that strange urge to absorb increasingly dynamic yet unnervingly ugly music. Baudelaire said it, and everything else, best: “The Devil pulls the strings which make us dance; we find delight in the most loathsome things; some furtherance of Hell each new day brings, and yet we feel no horror in that rank advance.” What more do you need to know?