Over the past decade there’s been a number of fantastic extreme metal bands creating music that’s clearly a tribute to some of the pioneers of a particular subgenre, while simultaneously pushing that style forward — notable examples include Stormkeep, Spectral Voice, the very recent Majesties debut, and my personal favorite, Caladan Brood. Adding to this list of devotees is Lamp of Murmuur, who have abandoned the lo-fi black metal and gothic rock influences of previous releases in favor of late ’90s Immortal worship with their third full-length album, Saturnian Bloodstorm. If there’s a fine line between homage and imitation, this album tends to fall on the opposite side of the aforementioned bands.
From the very first notes of opening track and initial single “Conqueror Beyond the Frenzied Fog” it was obvious the track was a tribute to Blizzard Beasts/At the Heart of Winter-era Immortal. Blashyrkh aficionados will know that Immortal themselves had a pronounced change in sound between these two albums, but the riffage on “Conqueror” was a neat bridge between the start-and-stop intensity of Blizzard and the clean guitar breaks and more dynamic songwriting mastered on Heart of Winter. Intrigued by this track, even if a little surprised at how much of a carbon copy it was, only one question remained; would the rest of the album sound the same? As it ultimately turns out, yes.
On paper I should adore this album, given how it goes about trying to improve upon the beloved Immortal formula with choral keyboards and more linear songwriting, two things I love to see in modern black metal. Yet a majority of the riffs on Saturnian Bloodstorm are so extremely similar to At the Heart of Winter that I’m instantly taken out of the present experience of listening to the album. Combined with the bark-like vocal performance that feels out of place and muggy production job that has very little of the bite that was a hallmark of the original Blashyrkh anthems (although I do appreciate the replication of the thunderous bass tone from Heart of Winter), there’s just not much compelling material here. A few minor highlights are the trem-picked melodies on “Hymns of Death, Rays of Might” and the epic buildup on “In Communion With the Wintermoon,” but even these stronger moments are cut short with a return to Immortal riff clones.
Despite all the buzz they’ve generated in the black metal scene over the past few years, Lamp of Murmuur is a band that had so far failed to impress me in any way — the faux-mystique and, for lack of a better word, pretentiousness in the descriptions of this act are not suited for the caliber of music being released. Saturnian Bloodstorm has only solidified my opinion. I have no doubt that ardent M. supporters will appreciate another stylistic shift for his band, but I’d rather take a return journey to late ’90s Blashyrkh. With a new Immortal album just over the grim and frostbitten horizon, the wait for a (presumably) more authentic experience won’t be very long.
Saturnian Bloodstorm will be available March 26 on Argento Records (Europe) and Not Kvlt/Night of the Palemoon (USA). For more information of Lamp of Murmuur, check out their Instagram page.
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