Existence is filled to the brim with things that flood our senses in profound ways but evade easy description in written form. Take, for instance, the sound of the ocean. The warmth of sunlight against your arm. That tingling sensation after a close lightning strike. Words on a page sometimes fail as an auxiliary for experience; an ineffectual attempt to catch the uncatchable. Same is true with whatever in the hell is going on in this Laster record. But here you are, reading another paltry description of a genre-bending, batshit crazy piece of dexterous songwriting and musical ingenuity. I am glad you are here. Buckle up. Things are about to get weird.
Ons Vrije Fatum is most commonly listed as an atmospheric black metal record. To be fair, there is some truth to this categorization. The album contains its fair share of tremolo picking and abrasive shrieks unleashed into the void. But that’s just about where the similarities end. Let’s use the track “Helemaal naar huis” as an example. At the outset, the listener is treated to an ominous opening of dark and slippery chords before the track surrenders itself to a swirling maelstrom of mangled guitars, thunderous drums, and cavernous howls, coupled with an eerie choral call-and-response element which fits the atmosphere of the track like a glove. By atmospheric black metal standards, so far so good. Then we hit minute four of eleven. The cyclone of an opening dies a languid death as the track gives itself over to… prog? Yup. Riffs and licks loop in and out like a terrifying yet highly entertaining roller coaster. Oh, and the caterwauling gnaws at your ears no more, giving way instead to a string of spoken word passages, all in the band’s native Dutch. That’s all before the jazz section kicks in, complete with some smooth guitar, dancing cymbal work, and a full-on saxophone passage.
That’s just one track on this record. I chose to highlight it because it is truly emblematic of the kaleidoscope of sounds this record conjures. Each track offers its own stew of influences and sounds, and fits into the album in its own unique way. But here’s the kicker: it works. Melodic guitars, keys, electronics, saxophone, choral elements all meld together in an increasingly interesting mix of the orchestral and the crazy. It’s a mesmerizing record from start to finish with few major flaws to speak of. Pulling on influences from bands like Ulver and Deep Purple, there is much to enjoy here.