(Andy Synn discovers that an old dog can learn new tricks, courtesy of the brand new album from Lantlôs, set for release on 30 July via Prophecy Productions)
There’s an ongoing (and rather interesting) debate happening in certain corners of the Metal-sphere (yes, I know spheres don’t have corners – work with me here) about how much of an influence Pop music, and pop-culture, should have over here in the more “Extreme” part of the music world.
The problem with this debate is that, as usual, it’s mostly the loudest, most obnoxious voices dominating the conversation – from the reactionary “defenders of the faith” on one side, so committed to the idea of Metal’s inherent superiority that to even suggest it could learn anything from other genres is tantamount to blasphemy, to the weirdly self-conscious and shamefaced “pseudo-fans” on the other, who seem to spend more time apologising for Metal’s perceived failings, insisting that it needs to start emulating whatever’s popular and successful instead, than they do celebrating it on its own terms.
What both sides seem to be unaware, or wilfully ignorant, of is the fact that Metal has always taken influence from across the Pop landscape, it’s just that there’s a big difference between simply doing it… and doing it well.
And, oh my, does this album do it very, very well indeed.
If it wasn’t already clear after hearing the album’s first song (and first single), “Lake Fantasy”, let me state, for the record, that Wildhund is an album defined by both bright colours and brilliant contradictions, one which represents both the natural next step in the project’s evolution (especially if you’re familiar with the melodic majesty of Melting Sun), yet also a giant leap into the unknown.
Rigidly “old school” fans of the band, if any of them are still listening, will likely decry the group’s new direction – let’s be honest, there’s more Post-Hardcore than “Post” Black Metal here – but the fact of the matter is that while the hooks may be bigger, the melodies brighter, the songwriting bolder and more bombastic, the current version of Lantlôs still delivers the same depth of emotion and immersion, it just does so in a much more immediate and accessible package.
And while it’s true that certain comparisons can be drawn here and there – the melancholy euphoria of “Cocoon Tree House” feels like a combination of both Alcest and Feeder (so, basically, Astronoid), “Vertigo” sits confidently somewhere between the Smashing Pumpkins (but with a singer who can, you know, actually sing) and Deftones (but with a singer who can… kidding!), and “Planetarium” channels the sublime spirit of Devin Townsend at his most regal and restrained, while instant-classic closer “Lich” feels like equal parts early Foo Fighters and Pink Floyd (another band who weren’t afraid to let their poppy side shine when they felt like it) – these comparisons are mostly superficial and, ultimately, Wildhund always sounds like Lantlôs, first and foremost… perhaps even, paradoxically, the most honest and heartfelt version of the band there’s ever been.
So, yes, contradictions abound. But it’s these very contradictions which, for me, make this album so endlessly captivating.
Oh, and did I mention that this is an honest-to-goodness Album of the Year contender in my book? Because it is. In fact I can’t, for the life of me, point to a single weak link or song that should be cut – at one point I considered “Cloud Inhaler” but, on reflection, it really does serve as a welcome respite from the album’s kaleidoscopic cascade of vivid colours and vibrant sounds – since it really is all so good.
I realise, obviously, that this isn’t going to be for all of our readers. Maybe only a small percentage of them, truth be told. But to me it’s an absolutely magical album, which once again proves that the dread word “accessibility” need not be a barrier to honesty or creativity.