Oh, Finland. Were the world ever to officially recognize any nation as the global Capital ov Melancholy, surely the Finnish would claim that tearful tiara. From Ghost Brigade to Insomnium to Ensiferum and all the nooks of negativity in between, it seems like something wicked depressing this way comes to us from thataway more often than not, and more often than not they end up wiping the mopey floor with the tear-soaked faces of everyone else seeking to lay claim to their downtrodden dominion. Hailing from this hallowed homeland of haunted hopelessness and hunting for a home in your heart are Lurk, a four-piece sludge-doom act who really know how to pick an album cover. Fringe is the band’s third full-length and, as you can probably guess, there will be no happiness here, but that’s not always a bad thing, is it?
It is not. “Ostrakismos” opens the whole sordid affair with some austere sludge, gradually introducing ambient effects and background shrieks before coalescing into some trvly eery doom; these are the fundamental building blocks for the remaining 7 tracks to come, and Lurk craft something sincerely sinister with each successive song. “Tale Blade” merges hints of Départe, Thou, and Antarktis into a hulking, skulking thing of crawling monolithic discord, while “Reclaim” incorporates a more riff-centric approach more closely related to the sludge of Neurosis meeting the blackened vision of Tchornobog. K. Koskinen lends a fierce and foreboding presence to the mix, shifting gears from guttural Meshuggah bellowing, Dodecahedron-y deranged shrieks, and creepy clean’s akin to Paradise Lost‘s Nick Holmes as needed. Hopelessness and heaviness haunt every inch of this thing; Fringe is as free from felicity as any of Finland’s finest forlorn offerings, and I couldn’t be happier.
The name of the game is unhappiness, but don’t look to Lurk for feels or a shoulder to cry on. Fringe is existential misery, the kind of misanthropic exploration that dives straight past sadness into incoherent depths of negative madness; by the time closer “Proteus Syndrome” comes to an end, lyrics such as ‘the pyre overflows/ exothermic process driven to cataclysm/ I feel the fire gnawing’ (“Furrow”) and ‘glacial aberration of the verdant/ eyes pound the bullpen’ (“Elan”) are all the listener has known for 44 harrowing minutes. This kind of grandiose malignance requires some instrumental care in order to grow into something trvly threatening, and Lurk are certainly up for this downer task. Reverb and atmospheric touches allow any lulls in aggression to retain all the insidious strength of the preceding cacophony, and A. Pulkkinen (ex- Satanic Warmaster)’s crunchy death tone throughout the fiercer moments of Fringe is a monster in its own right.
Further fortifying Fringe is its rhythmic foundation, which is seated slightly to the rear in the mix and yet is no less significant or otherwise structurally unsound for it. K. Nurmi has the chops and patience to switch between aggressive double-bass pedal-pounding percussion and pensive pauses for funereal passages of plodding doom, and lurking on the fringe of the focus allows everything to slither and swirl as one, shaping everything but overshadowing nothing. Really, everything about Fringe has a very cohesive, organic feel; it is a writhing, wretched thing that seethes and breathes, and much of this is thanks to the complimentary nature of the mix to the music. Given the ever-shifting ways of each track, Fringe is a lively experience through and through, and it feels every bit as virile and virulent as it sounds. Furthermore, the way the songs function together as a whole without relying on fade in/out studio stitch-work is impressive and refreshing, serving testament to the band’s songwriting skills and strengthening Fringe‘s overall play-through enjoyability.
If the Finnish doom tag combined with the fact that Fringe is a Transcending Obscurity release don’t have you sold yet, then listen to the voice of Muppety reason: buy this album, yo. Fringe is difficult to describe but an absolutely abhorrent delight to listen to, and anyone looking to hit that sweet n sour spot between agony and insanity would be remiss to miss out on this one. This Finnish clan ain’t nothing to fuck with, now wipe yourself off the hall floor and enjoy of deep Lurk.