Loviatar – Lightless Review

What makes a great doom record? Adequate levels of sadness, helplessness, or loss expressed in a desperate croon? Perhaps doom is defined by plodding tempos and debilitating riffs? Could it simply be a quality of emptiness that pervades every moment of the music, regardless of the superficial qualities inherent to the sound? I honestly couldn’t tell you. All I know is that when a doom metal band brings its A-game, boy howdy does it wreck my shit sideways, backwards and diagonally. Enter Canadian quartet Loviatar, whose sophomore full-length Lightless wrecks my shit sideways, backwards and diagonally.

A blunt force weapon of grim design, Loviatar resemble various well-respected acts in their field. The four-banger implements the tried and true formula of traditional doom metal delivered with delightful crunch and affecting melody. To keep their sound fresh, the band introduces the occasional flash of dissonance and a few beautiful post-metallic tremolo sweeps, but at the end of the day what Lightless represents is a time-honored tradition executed with the skill and savvy of a much more seasoned group. Furthermore, this record is tight as tight could be, smoothly gliding through six songs over the course of thirty-seven minutes. If anything is to be criticized about the record on paper, it’s that I’ve consistently wanted just one more song to put that much more meat on Lightless’ bones.

That’s not to say that Loviatar’s second outing is wanting in the meat-on-bones department, of course. Opener “Suffocating Delirium” is a hard-hitting treatise to the futility of life, and it couldn’t make me happier. Between crushing riffs that defy easy memorization while being an absolute joy to listen to, and a light Portal tint skulking in the background, the number feels dangerous and seductive. From there the album lifts off the heft just a smidge, with power trio “Horse in Thrall,” “Cave In” and SotY finalist (yeah, it’s that good) “Silica” leaning heavily towards sharp hooks and suave execution. These songs apply three very distinct approaches to absolute domination of my listening queue, with “Horse in Thrall” reminiscent of a somewhat less dour Fvneral Fvkk in it’s emotive guitar and vocal performances; “Cave In” immediately recalling Hunted-era Khemmis with it’s thunderous gallop; and “Silica” evoking the space-bound soars of Votum. In spite of the varied formulations at work here, these three slappers absolutely belong together and their organization in the particular space they occupy within Lightless is flawless.

If I was a betting man, I’d put money down for this paragraph to say something along the lines of, “and then there’s a dip at the bottom of this Lightless pit.” Well, I’m glad I’m not a betting man, because at no point does Lightless exhibit a single crack or seam through which momentum seeps. Even penultimate track “All the Witches You Failed to Burn” holds its own in the crusade against instrumental interludes, making convincing arguments through it’s Middle Ages folk-like jaunt down a hall of lifeless corpses and imminent demise. Additionally, the record boasts an x-factor which makes it actually impossible to stop spinning. My theory as to the source of this x-factor is based on its unrelenting flow. The whole feels natural, as if it always existed but we feeble-minded wretches never looked or listened for it before now. Each note, each verse, each chorus and every impeccably delivered snap of the snare falls where it means to, and leaves you wanting more without fail.

That’s the thing. I always want more, and I want it especially when the album ends, and not just by utterly demolishing that replay button (though I very often do regardless). Just one additional song between “All the Witches You Failed to Burn” and the closing epic title-track is all I ask. Something to round out the platter and leave me sated instead of eternally hungry. In other words, something isn’t there that should be. But if that’s the worst thing that happens here, then we’re in pretty good shape. Loviatar came out of absolute nowhere (like most Canadian metal bands) and violated my expectations with prejudice. After the initial shock wore off, the only things I felt were my pupils dilating. Lightless brings everything to the table that countless doom releases before it failed to prepare (looking at you, Pallbearer). What the hell are you waiting for? Dig in!

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: loviatardoom.com | facebook.com/loviatardoommetal
Releases Worldwide: April 3rd, 2020

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