It was only a couple years ago that an album called “As Time and Tide Erodes Stone” ended up in my inbox, before it was pressed by The Flesner on vinyl and when the California-based band Lake of Blood still were an underground mystery to most people. But there was something there, and that album stuck with me for a while, ending up a go-to when I needed something to hear while I was on a long walk or drive when I could fully and properly absorb the music.
Now, two years later, the band is back with an astonishing late-year album “Omnipotens Tyrannus” that’s out in cassette only for the Cult of Melancholia label, and does it ever up the ante over their full-length debut album. Not only is it that much more realized musically and astonishingly heavy, it’s also one hell of a lengthy listen, with seven cuts stretched over 80 minutes and guest appearances by the mighty Wrest (Leviathan) and former member Sutekh Hexen member Scott Miller, whose nightmarish soundscapes add a chilling element to this collection. It’s the sign of a band truly coming into its own, and while it takes a nice commitment of time to get through the album, you’ll find yourself better off for it once it plays out in full.
It’s easy to hear, even with a cursory listen to “Omnipotens Tyrannus,” just how much this has band has grown as songwriters and how much more they understand what they’re trying to do philosophically. The atmosphere is rich and thick in their style of black metal, almost as if you could reach out and touch mists from the oceans or furious winds whipping off the shores near the coast, and the thunderstorming that’s weaved into their music also feels like they’re trying to give a proper soundtrack to that event and give it even more quaking power. There’s such a noticeable difference in the band–and they were damn good on their debut and other split and mini releases–and they sound on the cusp of heading down the road to long-term greatness. If that does happen and this band does blossom, you can mark this album as their first real step.
Yes, the band has two pretty notable guests on this album, and perhaps that’ll open them up to a wider audience that they deserve, but the credit for this amazing album sits squarely in the laps of the five who made this thing possible. Vocalist Haagr, guitarists Samael and Nordic, bassist Krajavic, and drummer Xsithis have really come together as a unit, channeling their rage where it needs to be, getting the most out of every second of this album, and going back and forth between moods organically,making you anticipate every crushing high and slip into each emotional valley. It’s an album that continues to give and reward, and it’s so easy to get caught up in the majesty of this thing and wonder where the hell the past 80 minutes have gone.
“Blood and Mercy” opens this opus, and right away you get a good idea of what awaits you on the rest of the album. The song erupts out of a body of noise, with black metal-style wailing, howling vocals, and charged up melodies that serve to infect. The cut keeps twisting and turning over its 11:13 running time, always keeping the drama high, and eventually drowning out in the noise from which it came. “He Who Becomes” is an interesting one, as it shows more prog tendencies, colorful acoustic guitar passages add texture, and once the hellish storm dies down several minutes in, a long woosh of noise eats up the final minutes of the track, immersing your brain in cloudy wonder. “In Wells of Shadows,” at 13:30, dips into doom, with a somber opening and slow-driving melodies before it really hits its stride. The vocals hit a punishing wail, the song bursts apart and lets a flood of dark colors bury the sun, and a bed of total decibolic violence bleeds over, keeping up with the competing melodies insistent on infusing beauty. It’s quite a struggle between light and dark, and a damn rewarding one for the listener.
“Agape” will make you feel slurry and dizzy from the start, with its weird, medicine-head opening that might make you think the song is going somewhere it isn’t. Of course, shit blows up, with some spirited, killer chugging and vocals that rear infernal levels of scorching, and an awesome pace that should keep your blood pumping and … then unpredictable changes that take the song back to eerie and spooky. This section will chill your blood cells and have you seeing spirits, but then the madness blasts in again and erases that temporarily, before acoustic guitar and piano drops take you out. “Tyrannus” trickles into the scene before it hits its stride, with more texture coming by way of the acoustic guitar work, melodies that surge and burst in incredible colors, and a finishing few minutes that go from brain-picking prog rock to flesh-ripping black metal that eventually dissolves into more doom. “Omnipotens” is the longest cut at 16:15, and it provides the perfect curtain dropper, even though it technically isn’t the final song. There’s a buzzing, driving force that brings the song out of the shadows, and over its running time, it visits each tenet of what Lake of Blood do so well, from sooty, evil black metal, to melodic and adventurous playing, to clean, yet jarring sections that lets your mind wander, but only so far. A doom fog settles over everything and threatens to suffocate, but in the final moments, the song comes alive again and ends on a note of total menace and fury. Closer “Reflect and Suffer at the Paw of Grace” a 3:43 come down, is a great summary title for the album, and a proper closer, as it’s a lush bed of noise and atmospherics, with weird music and a voice mumbling wearily behind it. The track feels like the final moments of a hellacious storm, where you’re first looking out your windows to inspect the aftermath. Sadly, there are people doing just that this week.
Lake of Blood are a force, one with which to be reckoned, and they’re coming for us all. The advancements they have made from album one to two are almost impossible to believe, yet here’s your evidence. “Omnipotens Tyrannus” is the first major step of a really special band threatening to take black metal and stretch its boundaries even further, purists kicking and screaming be damned. This record will open your mind, compel you to imagine, and enrapture you in its power. This band has arrived, and it’s hard to predict where Lake of Blood will go next. But rest assured, it will be somewhere earth-shattering.
For more on the band, go here: http://lakeovblood.bandcamp.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://cultofmelancholia.storenvy.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://cultofmelancholia.tumblr.com/