Black Metal has become such a multi-faceted entity with insane levels of creativity, particularly in recent years with bands pushing extremities and dynamics to all new limits. Amongst a fast-growing Dutch scene, the trio of Laster have been a shining beacon of mesmeric and near absurdist songcraft. An unshackled approach that has hit an even greater peak of greatness on latest effort Het Wassen Oog (Prophecy Productions).
Where Black Metal is often thought of for its unrelenting fury and harshness, Laster are more akin to weaving abstract layers and dynamics throughout their works and instead create a hypnotic sense of unease and intrigue. ‘Vacuum Behoud’ starts proceedings and at first doesn’t feel too out of the ordinary for the uninitiated with a melodic, Atmospheric Black Metal approach from the offset before moody, Scott Walker-esque vocals interplay with harsh shrieks. As the song progresses it throws in several curveballs, from a Smooth Jazz-like passage to the sudden introduction of Flamenco guitar work.
It is an esoteric nature that continues throughout the album, making it an unpredictable but entrancing experience throughout. The near crooned vocal approach ranging between deeper tones and eerie higher tones feel reminiscent to some of Akercocke’s vocal lines, such as on ‘Zomersneeuw’, but veer through tones and imagery in a more Art Rock like display. It’s a work of sheer contrasts that both amplify and compliment one another, for example, how ‘Haat & Bonhomie’ shifts from perhaps the heaviest aspects of the entire album to a sinister bass heavy crawl in the latter half.
Rather than having true highlights, Het Wassen Oog feels like a wholesome body of work, a cinematic expression which is to be consumed in its entirety and thus showcasing its every twist and surprise. Even for a genre of music that is considered harsh and often impenetrable to the inexperienced, Het Wassen Oog is an often mind-boggling listen, but one that should be experienced. One that shows that there is still plenty of room for breaking moulds and boundaries in a genre that shows as much conservatism as it does evolution.
8 / 10