Lotan – Lotan Review

Look, I get why some metalheads don’t like black metal. Repetitive riffing, washed-out production, monotonous snarls and shrieks. In the right hands, this baseline style can be thrilling, epic, and beautiful—or so I believe. Lotan, however, are not going to change any minds. Their self-titled debut cleaves about as close to the modern hybridized trve template as a seven-headed dragon around a Leviathan Cross. Set firmly in Scandinavian style, blending frosty aggression and unfriendly restlessness with just a touch of idiosyncratic atmosphere, it ends up somewhere in the middle of the desolate black road. There aren’t no surprises, but there are few.  And as this also sits in a genre often stereotyped as bland and overly edgy, its relative lack of distinction and predictable Luciferian concept only make its shortcomings loom larger.

Nothing about Lotan stands out as egregiously bad, but nothing about Lotan really stands out at all. I do mostly forget about it as soon as it ends. Riffs often stick in the recognizable mold of half-melody, neither sinister nor mellow, just there. Tempos will swap back and forth between blastbeating and doomy marching with facile meaninglessness that makes compositions blur tediously into repetitive slogs. The things which do differentiate sections of unimaginative riffing between tracks—group shouts (“Ishtar”) or strange feedback (“Leviathan”) themselves grow weary with over-extended stays. And those rare elements that speak of a deeper and more alluring aura—mournful acoustic strumming (“The Faithless”) and injections of urgent, layered tremolos (“Ashera”)—are pitifully short-lived compared to the remaining monotony. A straightforward, trve approach is no bad thing, but Lotan do not commit in this department either, being neither raw nor especially evil-sounding.

Lotan, and by extension, Lotan seem to suffer from a lack of identity. Are they atmospheric (“The Faithless”),  folky (“Servant of Yammu”), melodic (“Ashera”), classic (“Ishtar,” “Leviathan”)? Of course, they could be all of these things, but the issue is that they perform each in total isolation, both within and between tracks. I find myself wishing they would lean in just one of these directions. Those passages of piano, strumming, and lurching tremolo stand out because they are so dramatically and suddenly different from the surrounding material. So while they’re enjoyable to listen to, the transitions feel awkward. This frequently spoils otherwise decent songs such as “The Faithless,” and “Ignis” where excellent guitar and drum performances respectively are overshadowed by a stylistic indecision that becomes almost grating. The main exception here is “Ashera” which best combines its intrigue and atmosphere with swaying, complex rhythms and second-wave ire. It’s probably the best track, even if, like the rest, not overly memorable.

Paradoxically, the musical fluctuation results in blandness, rather than anything wild and confusing. It causes the listener to lose interest, outside of those passages of striking uniqueness—in comparison. While most cuts on Lotan are on the reasonable end of the length spectrum, they often drag. This is a testament to the compositions’ lack of power. Even if some sections are exciting—even evil—enough to nod your way through, it’s not unlikely that you’ll be clock-watching halfway through songs, or skipping them. Creating engaging compositions really is where Lotan fall down, but they are not especially helped by a squashed production that robs those rare atmospheric passages of their intended depth, and saps vocals of their impact.

Lotan strikes me as a band that could be great if they just pick their poison. Their musicianship is competent, and the fleeting elements of intrigue could be developed into a dark edge if capitalized upon. It’s not yet the hour of the dragon.

Rating: Disappointing
DR: 3 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Uprising Records
Websites: bandcamp.com/album/lotan | facebook.com/lotanband
Releases Worldwide: March 31st, 2023

« »