Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Lavra - Bluenothing

Another one from the vaults, long out-of-print Finnish doom metal/post-punk recorded in 93-94 and released in 95.

Lavra blend the echoing atmospherics and melodic hooks of post-punk with the heavy, droning guitar action of doom metal. The guitars drive the music and define the structures through a blend of lightweight doom riffs, clean arpeggios, and a decidedly metal take on post-punk/new wave licks. It reminds me, in a way, of Forgotten Woods' first album in how it is a metal band's take on post-punk, with constant riffing and an emphasis on guitars, while reducing the vocals to an atmospheric overlay on top of the guitars - similarly to how a guitar run through a few effects pedals would be used to create a texture and atmosphere over vocal-driven parts in the original post-punk. A combination of distant clean vocals and hoarse, harshly-recorded whispers provide an interesting complement of textures to the guitar-driven instrumentation. I wish the bass and drums were more involved, but the absolutely absurd amount of reverb used to fill out a rather thin, trebly mix might not be compatible with that. That's just another icon of it being a metal band of those times.

This is certainly an artifact of the mid-90s - a death metal turned atmospheric doom/death band, then rebranded and turned post-punk/doom metal band making a mellow and moody piece of experimental, atmospheric rock with a very gothic appeal. The wispy, reverb-drenched production feels like an artifact of the past, even for the mid-90s, but it is also a large part of what makes this album unique. The need of the performances to fit this oversized, echoing roomfeel is also a contributing factor, and that is what differentiates it from more modern styles of post-metal. The mood captured by the weepy guitar beneath the synths in "E Minor" couldn't capture the same mood without the single-tracked, realistic feel of the guitars, nor could the intro to "Never" which follows it. The space in the mix thrives on the atmosphere of the former, yet remains comfortable in the busier instrumentation of the latter.

This is a very unique album, one which carries the creativity which flourished in early death metal and takes a similarly unusual and self-defining turn into the same type of path which former death metal bands like Tiamat. Lavra take a turn into a rather uncharted combination of styles to create an unusual, captivating atmospheric sound. While it's not the greatest album, it is undeniably intriguing for anyone with an interest in the era and the styles involved. Just do yourself a favor and don't listen to it on YouTube, the poor quality of audio there and out-of-order tracks kind of ruin the experience.

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