Black metal has a storied and profoundly ugly history. Most fans of metal as a whole need no introduction to the bloody and unhinged events that brought one of metal’s most notorious genres into the limelight. As black metal has progressed, however, less violent and anti-social forms of the genre have taken center stage as the principal players in the genre’s evolution. Blackgaze, atmospheric black metal, experimental black metal, blackened death, the list goes on. But every so often a band emerges that blends the musical stylings that have propelled black metal into bold new territory while heralding back to black metal’s more sinister, malevolent aesthetic; that portion of the genre that makes your skin crawl. Enter Italian black metal duo Lorn and their incredible new EP, Arrayed Claws.

This EP feels like the audio equivalent of a sharp, cold knife pressed against your throat. Which, when describing black metal of this style and caliber, is nothing short of a ringing endorsement of this band’s sound. As alluded to above, this is most certainly not a traditional black metal release. Arrayed Claws deviates from more traditional black metal fare through its unique and genuinely gorgeous sense of melody and harmonic unity, which slices through the absolutely ferocious riffs contained in these tracks like a calm breeze in the midst of a hurricane. Opening track “Disharmonic Feticism” provides an excellent example of this dynamic, as the maniacal shredding and throat-ripping screams that permeate the first half of the track come to a winding close, only to be replaced by gentle synths and soothing melody.

This portion of the record is so lush and serene that you almost forget that you are listening to black metal at all. Which would be a mistake, as follow-up track “Abstract Trap” comes screaming to life in a roar of fury and darkness that rattles the senses and traps you in a sonic storm of particularly evil ferocity. The production of this record should be mentioned at this juncture, as it provides crispness and depth to the mania at work within, and highlights some exceptional songwriting and instrumentation from guitarist/vocalist Radok and drummer Chimsicrin. The EP ends with two instrumental pieces, “Sut-aq-Kol” and “Aus Nebel Turm”, which respectively encapsulate the albums brutal and melodic nature, with each focusing on these separate styles exclusively throughout their duration.

It is going to be hard to top Laster’s latest record when it comes to black metal experimentation and ingenuity, but Arrayed Claws comes very close. It is a lethal dose of black metal that demands multiple listens, and will satisfy and terrify each time. One of my favorite black metal releases of this young 2017.

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