LASTER - De Verste Verte Is Hier

Laster - De Verste Verte Is Hier

4 songs
45:47 minutes
***** ****
Broken Limbs / Dunkelheit


When I discovered black metal in the late Eighties, it was a music full of primitive energy that was to metal in a way that punk was to rock. Bands like Venom and later Bathory set the tone for a furious onslaught that was just the right medicine for my tortured teenage soul. Back then I would never have guessed that it would be exactly that genre which would open new paths for a metal movement that otherwise has a hard time finding new directions.

Lately there have been quite a lot of groundbreaking new black metal bands, and the duo Laster from Utrecht in the Netherlands is another fine addition to the genre’s canon. Their music is generally described as atmospheric black metal, and while that makes sense, it still doesn’t pay them justice. After their well received demo from 2012, their debut longplayer De Verste Verte Is Hier offers only four tracks, two of which are a each about a quarter hour long, another one makes it slightly over ten minutes, and a shorter and catchier six minute track to conclude the record.

The album starts with the fourteen minute epic Alles Wat Mij Bevalt, Ontvalt Me, beginning slowly in an epic post-Viking way, before a good minute into the track, fast drums are joining in and somehow make up a mix between high speed rhythm and epic languor. The vocalists are screeching hysterically, so that it doesn’t really matter if the lyrics are in Dutch or any other language. The production feels a little low-key, but it doesn’t matter as you soon get the impression that a more polished mix would have robbed the music of its underground intensity. There’s plenty of variety in this first long track, and again the duo deserves praise for keeping it all together in a homogenous way. The following Tot De Tocht Ons Verlicht, with "only" ten minutes one of the shorter tracks, begins at a more sedate pace and feels therefore more accessible. Unlike other bands who just try to copy a successful formula, Laster only use the ingredients of black metal as a stylistic manoeuvre, while their songwriting is totally idiosyncratic, which is eventually responsible for their rather unique sound. Ik - Mijn Masker makes it even, if barely, over the quarter hour mark, and once again follows the band’s so far winning formula. Only the concluding six minute title track doesn’t seem to fit. The drums feel programmed, a ubiquitous synth chord line is running through the track, the atmosphere is chilly, giving it all a dark wave touch. Even though I preferred the preceding longer tracks, I understand the guys’ motivation to have one "pop" song squeezed at the end of the album.

Nowadays there are so many different kinds of black metal around, that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where new artists are coming from. In the case of Laster, I guess that they are treating the pioneers (Bathory, Darkthrone,...) through the lens of the more modern variety (Liturgy, Deafheaven,...). Maybe that’s not the case, but in the end it doesn’t matter because Laster’s winning formula is that they smartly draw a bridge between the genre’s primeval roots and its more sophisticated futures. Sometimes I might wish the production had been a little clearer, but still think that De Verste Verte Is Hier is one of the more rewarding recent black metal records that manages to be raw and atmospheric at the same time.

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