2014 seems to be a year where atmospheric black metal has been at its most prominent state. More often than not many up-and-coming bands who delve in this particular style of black metal are now erupting from the underground and into the minds of many an extreme metal fan, though with a still loyal cult following from the country of origin. Atmospheric black metal used to be a style which was rooted concretely in Scandinavian lands (Norway, Sweden and Finland to be more exact), but now it seems that there are groups emanating from all four corners of the globe, in regards to extreme metal as a whole. Dutch group Laster are yet another addition to this year’s more promising acts within the atmospheric black metal field, and their debut album, “De Verste Verte is Hier”, is surely the one to introduce them to a new crowd of loyal fans.
Four tracks over a gargantuan forty-five minute run-time may seem like a lot to take on already, but considering the atmospheric black metal style it isn’t too surprising. The opening song, the thirteen-minute long ‘Alles wat mij behalt, ontvalt me’, turns out to be the weakest of the four, yet is still a very appropriate introduction to the album. The atmospheric background, the bitter vocal delivery and slightly clouded instrumentation all contribute to an effectively hypnotic piece of music, even if at the same time proving a tad too repetitive. It’s nothing too different to what one would expect from this style of black metal, but the band confidently pull it off with a soulful approach to the progression of the song. And that’s essentially why the remaining three tracks are more memorable as a result. Second song ‘Tot de Tocht ons Verlicht’ is shorter but definitely more versatile, ending up with a more versatile, more sinister sound than its predecessor, and certainly more meaningful as the ambient interludes take place towards the end. Though the two songs contrast each other in this respect, what lies at the heat of them both is a knack for producing a naturally atmospheric background which complements (rather than diverts the attention of) the band’s somewhat raw black metal style.
The second half of the album is where experimentation takes a more prominent approach. The longest song on the album by far, ‘Ik-Mijn Master’ is developed via a more progressively epic structure, and the clean vocal delivery proves effective by being utilized more often than the harsher style. Whilst the importance of the clean vocal delivery isn’t fully realized until the album’s closing title track, ‘Ik-Mijn Master’ wouldn’t be quite as mesmerizing without that aspect. The ambient interludes also play their part a lot more, particularly the last five minutes, where choral chants, effective Gothic-tinged instrumentation and a psychedelic melody all fuse together to create the perfect outro. The title track contrasts this immediately by both being a shorter composition and a more straightforward style, but it does close the album leaving a memorable sound in the listener’s grasp.
Laster’s musical ambitions seem fully realized on their debut album. The hypnotic state of their take on atmospheric black metal is a distinctive bonus, and though there’s not quite enough here to distance the band’s sound from the more traditional side of the genre, further listens will uncover new layers of dream-like compositions. That said, the debut is ambitious and promising, and should give Laster a great kickstart to a hopefully long-running career.
1. Alles wat mij Behalt, ontvalt me
2. Tot de Tocht ons verlicht
3. Ik-Mijn Master
4. De Verste Verte is hier