I was settling into my windowless, poorly ventilated n00b office when I heard voices in the hall.1 Steel Druhm was asking for a review status, and words formed in an iron throat answered, “I’m watching a Vampire Diaries marathon until Halloween. Give it to a n00b.” Soon, an ape loomed in my doorway, a promo in its huge, hairy mitt. “Ferrous is busy. Write this review for him. Also, the break room fridge isn’t gonna clean itself.” And with that, he lumbered away. My fears that a staff writer cast-off would likely be my own personal Blind Seer proved unfounded when by either oversight or design2 I was given Dialogues From Beyond, a highly enjoyable debut of black metal by Bilbao, Spain based Lifelost.
Phlegeton, the band’s lone member, is no stranger to these halls. His sci-fi themed tech-death/slam outfit, Wormed, has received two glowing AMG reviews. Most recently, their release Krighsu proved irresistible Kronos bait in 2016. If you’re familiar with that band, expect something markedly different in Lifelost. While there are moments that hit hard with death metal swagger, this is unmistakably black metal. Without being overly influenced by the genre’s Scandinavian sound, Phlegeton’s take is nevertheless distinctly European. This is no second wave worship, nor would I call it atmoblack, as it never meanders airily between blasts. There is, however, atmosphere aplenty. The compositions roll and heave around complex melodies, and vocals are pushed back in the mix, making them more instrumentation than lyrical delivery.
“Malign Emanatio” opens things up emphatically with a single drum kick followed by face-melting blasts and intense tremolo picking. The song morphs subtly underfoot until halfway through, when the drums drop away and a brief stretch of buzzing guitar and unhinged howls is all the break you get before the chaos kicks in again. Unlike the usual croaks and rasps, Phlegeton’s vocal style ranges from guttural growls to layered, low register cleans. This combination is used to great effect on the album’s high point. A new addition to my best black metal songs of 2018, “Released From Life” is relatively straightforward—though by no means simplistic—compared to other tracks. It features the closest thing this album has to a hook or chorus, and the warped riffing is tight and memorable.
In spirit, Dialogues From Beyond is akin to the experimental night terrors of Dodecahedron, though it is in equal measure all about the riffs. There are passages, especially in “Malign Emanatio” and “Metanoia,” where the knotted progressions remind me of Krallice-adjacent band Anicon, but without the New York attitude. After the dense madness of previous songs, the riff cycle of “Incorporeal Gate” could almost be described as stirring, and it closes the album with a surprisingly uplifting guitar line.
My one main criticism of Dialogues From Beyond is that there isn’t enough of it. This is a wisp of an album at under 25 minutes, and I can’t help wonder what an impactful debut it would be if he had let the material bake a bit longer and added a couple more songs. And then there’s that moment—if you’ve heard it, you know the one—when the volume shoots up precipitously the last few seconds of “Malign Emanatio.” It scared the everloving shit out of me on my first playthrough (not cool, Phlegeton!) and had me looking to see if the cat had walked across my keyboard. This is a minor quibble, I admit.
Lifelost has crafted an exciting, if too short, debut. This is European black metal equally evocative of a sweltering Mediterranean summer as it is icy northern forests. It will also be my solace as I clean out freezer burned goat parts and Tupperware full of long-molded cheese labeled “Swordborn” from the AMG office fridge3