Perturbator – Lustful Sacraments Review

It is an interesting phenomenon how French synthwave musician Perturbator became a common household name among today’s metalhead community. Several years ago, I had an opportunity to see Perturbator live at Seattle’s vegan metal bar The Highline, the same venue where I previously saw AlcestOathbreaker, and Khemmis. Though it slipped my mind why I ultimately was unable to attend the Perturbator show, the point is that Perturbator has somehow become more aligned with the underground metal scene even though it would make far more sense for the band’s music to circulate most comfortably in synthwave circles. So why do metalheads find themselves so enthralled with Perturbator‘s dark electronic music? I’ll give you a few hints as to why.

James Kent, the twenty-eight year old sole member of Perturbator, acquired an early taste for synthesizers. This interest was largely inspired by the fact that both of his parents were musicians in a tech trance band themselves. Though Kent never completely abandoned his soft spot for the vast world of alien synthesizers, he started listening to thrash, death, and black metal at a young age and even went so far as to play guitar in several black metal bands as a part of his first foray into the local music scene. Starting in 2012, however, Kent switched gears and started producing his own electronic music influenced by cyberpunk culture, John Carpenter, and Vangelis. Listen to a few minutes of Perturbator‘s first full-length album Terror 404, and you’ll quickly hear the link between Kent’s metal roots and his love for atmosphere and synthesizers. Perturbator‘s manipulation of emulators of old vintage synths sounds remarkably dark, twisted, and haunted.

While Perturbator‘s music has matured significantly since his first full-length release in 2012, the sound on his new album Lustful Sacraments is still a blend of dark, retro-inspired synthwave. The biggest difference I hear between this latest release and Perturbator‘s earlier material is a heavier focus on gothic, post-punk undertones. It’s atmospheric black metal band Wolves in the Throne Room meets John Maus‘s 1980s style gothic-pop. I hear this distinct sound early on in the album on the title track with its heavily processed vocals, synth pads galore, and pounding beats. Both “Excess” and “Secret Devotion (ft. True Body)” venture dangerously close to synth-pop territory, give off some serious house party vibes, and had me dancing (reality: flailing) in my chair on repeat listens. Perturbator demonstrates a wide range in his synthwave sound on Lustful Sacraments with the ambient outro on “Excess” and the doomy “Dethroned Under a Funeral Haze.” Dreamy and spine-chilling closing track “God Says (ft. Hangman’s Chair)” reminded me of ambient electronic, shoegazing band The Sight Below‘s cover of Joy Division‘s track “New Dawn Fades” with the way it lugubriously ambles on, seemingly slowing down time.

I wonder, though, whether there is still room for synthwave to evolve. The only gripe I have with Lustful Sacraments is that I don’t feel that the album pushed the envelope of the genre in any specific direction. I’ve listened to very few new and interesting synthwave albums in the past five or so years. Is the synthwave trend losing its freshness and dying a slow death? Maybe I’ve simply been out of touch with the genre. Despite my concerns for synthwave as a whole, I was truly captivated by Lustful Sacraments from beginning to end. If anyone is going to keep synthwave alive, I trust James Kent of Perturbator to lead the charge.

Listening to Lustful Sacraments is a gratifying ride. My fiancé and I had the album playing recently as we were road-tripping it back to Seattle after a weekend of camping on the coast of the Olympic Peninsula. It turns out that the dark and intimate moodiness of Lustful Sacraments was actually the perfect soundtrack for driving away from the rugged and misty beaches of the Olympic Peninsula and through beautiful, old-growth forests. Perturbator‘s music is otherworldly and introspective yet exceptionally upbeat, and it’s these qualities which will continue to keep me coming back for more.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 224 kbps mp3
Label: Blood Music
Websites: facebook.com/Perturbator | perturbator.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: May 28th, 2021

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