Lustre – A Spark Of Times Of Old

cover

Approaching a new Lustre release tends to produce a mixed but predictable reaction for me. The initial thought: “Do I really want to hear another ambient/black metal release that sounds more or less the same as everything else Nachtzeit has done?” The first impression: “Damnit, this is really too good for me to care if it sounds the same.” Follow-up listens: “There’s actually a lot going on here, and the subtle differences really make this something unique in his discography.” Final thoughts: None, I’m too blissed out for them. Does A Spark Of Times Of Old, the upcoming MCD from Herr Nachtzeit, fall into this same pattern? Not exactly.

I can appreciate the work that’s gone into texturing this song, so that while it feels distinctly like Lustre, it has enough of a unique atmosphere in his discography to ensure it doesn’t evoke too much a Groundhog Day sensation in anyone with more than a passing familiarity in the project. Of course, the distant but thick wall of guitars that forms as the backdrop to many Lustre songs is here along with the unmistakable keyboard tone, Filosofem-esque drumming, and hissing scream, but the synthesized voices and horns reinforce the uniquely somber character set down by the monolithic riff that underlies the entirety of A Spark Of Times Of Old.

And here begins the “Problems” section of the review; unfortunately longer than the “Positives” in this case. This single track is built around a three-note tremolo riff base that, excluding the first minute of rain and fire samples (Can these be banned from metal, forever? Not that I’m opposed to rain or fire, but this is tired and cliche in the worst possible way.), repeats without stop through the whole of the piece. Three notes. Nineteen minutes. This riff, simple as it is, sounds good initially. Synthesizing with the title and regal sounding synthesizers, I can easily imagine an ancient, stone statue forgotten and eroded by time in the rain. By the hundredth or so repetition, I’m wishing someone would smash that same statue into dust. More is occurring here; multiple synth melodies are layered over this base, and the Nazgul vocals certainly grab your attention. I wouldn’t say It’s lazily composed; the way the melodies weave together and play off of one another ensures that it never ceases to be an interesting and even enjoyable surface listening experience, but none of these layers ever change the song in a way that’s engrossing enough for me to actually care. Perhaps one of the main issues here is the length: there’s not enough here to fill nineteen minutes. When ambient black metal crosses the line from hypnotic to monotonous, something is quite wrong.

And it results in this EP feeling, well, rather lifeless. It sits mostly in stasis; certain layers are introduced and then subtracted, but they don’t change the flow of the song in any meaningful way. Imagine if Burzum‘s “Det Som En Gang Var” repeated the first few seconds of the song with a few keyboard melodies riding over top of it for 19 minutes, and you get a bit of a sense for what this A Spark Of Times Of Old is like. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy listening to this to some extent; the production, mood, and overall soundscape is gorgeous and well crafted, but I already know that Nachtzeit is a master of this. The importance of those atmosphere introducing elements is that they enhance the actual composition itself, and it’s the composition that isn’t nearly emotionally captivating enough here to compel me to return to it in the way that this year’s full-length, Wonder, did. I get the Times Of Old here, but where’s the Spark? The heat? The fire? -Jake

ATMF

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~ by jakemoran on September 18, 2013.

3 Responses to “Lustre – A Spark Of Times Of Old”

  1. Hahaha samples of fire and rain, wouldn’t that just sound like hissssss…? Bwah, lame joke.

    I’ll give it a listen but maybe Herr Nachtzeit’s creativity just can’t keep up with his release rate anymore? The cover art seems to be very un-Lustre by the way…

  2. Lame joke maybe, but a decent metaphor for this release… I don’t feel like Lustre actually puts out that much; 4 albums and a handful of EPs in 5 years seems very reasonable to me, especially since the songs he writes tend to be relatively simple. I’m not sure why this one was such a slip up, but considering it was announced over a year ago, I have to wonder if Nachtzeit or his prospective labels were aware that this wasn’t up to his usual quality… All speculation though.

    The cover art is really uninspiring.

  3. 9 releases and a demo since 2008, seems pretty prolific to me. Plus he also records under other names I believe? Anyway, still absorbing Wonder and Of Strength and Solace (my latest Lustre acquisitions) and waiting for a big order from ATMF (who are fucking slow in handling and communicating btw) to arrive containing earlier Lustre releases (and Midnight Odyssey, yay!) so all in all this release is not high on my priority list.

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