Sweden’s Lustre has proven divisive across the two prior releases reviewed. The first was heralded as a great atmospheric record and bestowed with a 4.0, while the second was quite the opposite and summarily handed a 1.5. I presume you’ve already skipped to the bottom for the score so I’ll address this now: my review of Still Innocence falls far closer to the second. For some reason the metal tab on Bandcamp is rammed with atmospheric black metal of this ilk so I suppose there’s an audience somewhere. If any of you have found your way here you should know that this record is bad. Allow me a few hundred words to describe why.
Lustre doesn’t fall too far from the likes of Summoning in its reverb-heavy, densely atmospheric approach to black metal. But Still Innocence makes Summoning‘s output sound like Mozart, such are the shitty, Casio-standard, faux-orchestral synths used here. There’s no actual heaviness and barely any audible metal despite nominally falling into the category. The bass, guitars and drums are all subjugated to the obnoxious synths dominating the spectrum, being relegated to an indistinct noise in the sub-layers. If I can describe this album in three onomatopoeic words they would be “twinkle,” “buzz” and “hiss.” The twinkle is the synths, the buzz the instruments and the hiss the thin, buried vocals. If this unique intersection of sounds catches your ear then Still Innocence will probably be your defining record of 2017. Given the dearth of even somewhat interesting instrumentation and the prevalence of these synths, the record is an example of style over substance – but where that style is vapid and forgettable.
Beyond the aesthetic to which I so strongly object, this album is incredibly repetitive. Approximately 90 percent of it is simply cut-pasted from the shockingly few ideas that are actually generated. I had to actively note when the melody finally changed or developed. I’m struggling to call it ‘song-writing’; one idea repeats for a while, might change once, and then the track ends. The target was clearly for something hypnotic but the result is dull and fails to engage. “Let Go Like Leaves of Fall” suffers particularly as it feels like the interlude in an album of interludes, even lacking the deficient metal present elsewhere. Every track uses the ol’ fade-to-black outro which is limp and reeks of inability to write a satisfactory conclusion otherwise.
I’m further confused as to the tone sought. The tonal comparison on “Dreaded Still,” the opener, could be Burzum given the electronic ambiance and black metal but it lacks the legitimate darkness and danger of that band. Meanwhile, “Nestle Within” closes with what could be described as ‘cosmic’ synths. But most strange is “Reverence Road” which is bizarrely close to an 80s, retro sci-fi movie soundtrack. In fact, it sounds very much like the Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon OST by Power Glove, a videogame soundtrack which was designed as an homage to such movies. I’m not entirely convinced that this was intentional but it is quite funny as it subverts any attempt at making an emotive statement. The only point at which I feel any sense of gravitas, or an emotion beyond bewilderment or bemusement, is on “Without End.” It’s slightly more powerful and at least concludes the record on a stronger note.
If these tracks were half their length and then spread across ten black metal releases, they could make for reasonable interludes. But when the entirety of Still Innocence feels like a 35-minute interlude the resulting release is incredibly repetitive and forgettable. And while the master may be mercifully dynamic, Lustre proves that this is but one characteristic of a good production job since the metal parts are poorly represented in the mix and have zero impact whatsoever. Even beyond all that, my noted responses of bewilderment and bemusement should not be elicited by a black metal album attempting to attain some kind of emotive impact. According to Google, ‘lustre’ implies shine or brilliance; this Lustre is far from that.