Lurk – Aegis Review

Here I sit, in my dimly lit alcove, wearing my cherished war elephant Transcending Obscurity tee, penning another review for a Transcending Obscurity release. This one is for Finnish sludge doom band Lurk, and their upcoming mass of grime Aegis. I was rather smitten with 2016’s (2018’s if you track signed release dates) Fringe and its murky, swinging brand of sludge metal. It was oppressive while also being quite beautiful, adeptly wielding a chilling atmosphere that cut to the bone as often as it crushed bone to dust. Just how likely is it, then, that Lurk could return seven years later with another record of similar sound and equal or better quality?

For better or for worse, Lurk stuck to what they know, and they know atmosphere. Aegis petrifies the spine as it paints a most barren of landscapes for me to traverse, using delicately curated effects and tones to evoke an utterly isolating environs. At the same time, however, Aegis is monstrously heavy when it drops riffs that could devastate entire continents. Continuing the trend of pairing two seemingly disparate attributes, Lurk accomplish another unlikely feat of songwriting by combining an incredibly slow and lumbering pace with a belligerent blues swagger. This swing is the motor that drives the record forward with deceivingly powerful thrust across forty-three minutes of eerie, unsettling doom. Aegis also incorporates a greater portion of death metal aesthetics to spice the affair, occasionally borrowing some added heft from labelmates Warcrab to maximize impact.

That subtle shift into deathlier territory paid big dividends, just as charring Fringe did seven years ago. Opener “Ashlands” is nothing short of densely muscular, presenting a tectonic riff that instantly shatters vertebrae and liquefies gray matter. “Infidel,” “Blood Surge,” and closer “The Blooming” offer equally sinewy chunks of meaty sludge, irrevocably coating the brain with steaming gunk and bonding on the molecular level with the memory center. Slowly, but surely, these monstrous tracks smother everything around them with sharp and snappy cymbal clinks, crunchy guitars, and deafening bass drum pummels. But there’s an understated, dark beauty to those compositions as well. In the spaces between crushing riffs and percussive blows, disquieting clean picked melodies intrigue and attract, and a curious haze creeps in on the soundstage to envelop and ensnare (“Infidel,” “Hauta”). It’s a clever arrangement that I should’ve seen coming from a mile away, as it is Lurk’s specialty, but even still they managed to use it against me, luring me back into their grasp once again (especially with the oddly memorable instrumental “Kehto”).

While the whole record is quite strong in all categories, from songwriting to tone to mixing, Aegis feels like more of a lateral move in quality compared to Fringe. New elements paint the familiar environs in a modified palette, yet the core composition and structure remain unchanged. Therefore, so carried over are its flaws. Even at a tight forty-three minutes, the doom-laden piece introduces bloat in several places. The aforementioned interlude is one such place, as you might expect, but “The Blooming,” “Hauta” and “Shepherd’s Ravine” also struggle. Inflated by segments that meander and waffle about, these tracks pad the areas between big moments too heavily. On one hand, that padding allows those strong passages to hit hard and leave a distinct mark. On the other, overextending my reprieve before striking again allows me too much recovery time, too much opportunity to prepare for the next volley, and therefore dulls subsequent blows.

Aegis is, without a doubt, Fringe’s equal. Both records are engaging, clever, and detailed, with enough momentum to carry me through without any loss of interest. However, Lurk have yet to push the needle past that line behind which greatness awaits. With some tweaking, Lurk’s formula could result in that barn-burning slab of deathly, blackened sludge. As it stands today, I can at least rest easy knowing that Lurk haven’t let me down, and that they remain one of the cooler and better sludge bands around.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 7h, 2023

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