There comes a time in every band’s career where they either get it or they don’t. A lucky few find their footing right away and hit the ground running, becoming either a fondly remembered flash in the pan or a trainwreck tragically dragged through the mud, fizzling out with an agonal groan long after the magic has died. Sometimes, a band’s trajectory climbs with a purposeful gait for years before finally reaching the zenith of that perfect sound they’ve been working to accomplish. Luckily for us, that’s exactly where Dimensions finds Finnish death metallers Lantern on their third full-length album.
Formed from the ashes of Cacodaemon, principal songwriter Cruciatus and vocalist Necrophilos have spent the better part of a decade developing some of the most unique OSDM the world has to offer. A cursory listen to their first project is enough to paint the portrait: roaring riffs undulate against one another, creating the illusion of seasickness over an unstoppable thrash beat. However, even in these early recordings, Lantern’s wick is being set to wax. Visions of Mercyful Fate are clear, and it’s not long before the duo outgrow their own carapace and molt into a form more suited for experimentation and atmosphere.
Cruciatus has referenced Yes in particular among the greater pantheon of ’70s prog rock and its progeny as a major influence on Lantern’s songwriting. Their first few releases give just a hint of this. On Below and II: Morphosis, Lantern tends not to stray too far from the path, only following little capillaries off the main vein of blackened death metal. Dimensions, however, finally consecrates the marriage of old school prog rock ethos with the cavernous crush of modern revivalism.
Album opener and lead single “Strange Nebula” immediately introduces us to this fully realized sound. A grandiose atonal prelude previews the new tools in their kit right away, falling away to Necrophilos’ trademark throaty howl and classic cock-rock riffing. It’s not long before the boys find themselves dissolving into triumphant tremolo and blast beats, perfectly waxing and waning between ’80s hair sneer and weird, doomy death. This would all seem silly if it wasn’t so flawlessly executed.
A nod has to go here to prolific producer Dan Lowndes at Resonance Sound Studio, who has already mixed some of the best releases in the OSDM and grind sphere this year: Warp Chamber, Cosmic Putrefaction, Solothus, Ruin Lust, Azath, Caustic Wound, and Writhing, just to name a few. While those albums might already qualify him for death metal canonization, Dimensions is his pièce de résistance. Every instrument is tightly balanced and coiled around clearly enunciated growls before being punted into a smoky void. The art of big room cave metal has never been so clearly mastered while still clutching to its colossal weight. Lantern wins big here on production alone, as so few of the hundreds (if not thousands by this point) of OSDM revivalists could ever take full advantage of such a rich, clear, atmospheric mix.
Tracks like “Portraits” and “Shrine of Revelation” make good use of this. The former actually features singing (or Necrophilos’ best attempt at it) while the latter is a barnburner of Daylight Dies-esque doomy contemplation and blackened chewing of lyrical fat. Where this swirling chaos ends, the album’s finale and most aptly named track “Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions” is slowly plucked from the emotional detritus of its precedent. The fourteen minute epic conclusion to an already stellar album may come to be known as their magnum opus – a work crystallizing and encapsulating every trick in their book. From solemn quietude to ripping, disorienting riffing; from ephemeral leads over battle marches to eerie, emotional power chords pulled straight from Blackwater Park. The lengthy track never once gets stale or repeats itself, offering instead a holistic odyssey through their catalog and giving us a bird’s-eye view of their entire journey from small time Finnish death dealers to masters of arrangement and progression.
Dimensions is the sound of half running, half stumbling down a dim stone passage in bewildered, existential fear as you’re stalked by an unseen force – a passage leading into an unknowable abyss, your life flashing in broken floods of memories as you fumble for grip. It is a defining moment for Lantern. If you are bored of the deluge of bands crowding the OSDM market and need something a little headier than its caveman brethren, Lantern’s latest release demands your immediate attention.
Dimensions is available now via Dark Descent Records.