Just as their geographical namesake suggests, Latitudes are an expansively-minded post-everything band with their view set far beyond the immediate horizon. Part Island (Debemur Morti), the band’s fourth album, isn’t just broad in its musical palate – which takes cues from the likes of Neurosis and Alcest – it also uses its sparse rural setting to tackle themes of desperation and emptiness in an always engaging way.
Anyone who is already familiar with Latitudes will know the Hertfordshire quintet to be remarkably deft songwriters who thumb their noses at the sort of introspection-for-the-sake-of-it songwriting that can befall Shoegaze bands who find themselves in a comfortable rut.
What their previous material doesn’t let on is just how storied their latest LP is. With passages of quiet foreboding, songs that capture the salt-licked expanses of grey-wash shorelines and guitar lines that are redolent of lonely, piercing bird call, Part Island sounds like the musical equivalent of the English Pastoral novel brought to life.
The band have spoken about their literary influences from landscape writer Robert MacFarlane to seminal naturalist Nan Shepherd, and their veneration for the British countryside is writ large across this album.
While this back-to-basics homage to Mother Nature certainly isn’t unique among bands with black metal influences, the nature of Part Island to wander between bruising walls of noise (‘Dovestone’) and gossamer-thin fragility (‘Underlie’) captures the changeability and, often, desolation of our environment.
These worlds collide most effectively on the self-titled album closer which opens to softly plucked strings and Adam Symonds’ vocals, teetering on the edge of fragility, before these fat, fuzzed up licks come crashing in over each other. It’s also a brilliant showcase for what a band with blackened influences can do without resorting to abrasive vocals. The play-off between Symonds’ soft delivery and the sort of riffs you’d more likely find on a Deafheaven record makes for refreshingly novel – and enjoyable – listening.
With all that said, the greatest thing about Latitudes’ fourth full-length outing is how it says, and does, so much in what is a relatively condensed three-quarters of an hour. This six-track album drags you through sludge-thick peat bogs, over bleak moorland and pitches up upon a wind-riven shore to watch the endless waves roll in.
It’s an aptly fitting reminder that our own harried little collection of rocks in the North Atlantic is a place of starkness but also of intense beauty.
8 / 10