Every once in a while, something comes along that really arrests you. Don’t get me wrong; I listen to new albums I like, and even love, almost very week. But it’s not every week that I listen to something that immediately makes me stop whatever I’m doing and pay total attention to it. This is what happened to me with Christian Cosentino‘s Lawn. In true black metal fashion (although the album doesn’t sound like what you might expect from that genre classification), Cosentino arrived to me from nowhere (through a Discord recommendation, of all things) and I know very little about them. But what I do know is that I’ve never heard an album that arrives at the black metal milieu from quite the same angle as Lawn. It’s an album that channels its cover art, producing heavy, sweeping, bright music that has many of the trappings of black metal while integrating (or perhaps un-integrating, more on that below) classical tones and composition into the mix.
The uniqueness of the album lies in singular way in which these elements are introduced, creating a bewildering and even uncanny style. When you first play the album, from the first few seconds even, you’ll get a feeling for how much Cosentino loves classical music: the compositions are sweeping, relying on both the piano and a host of strings to create the moving evocations that the genre is known for. In fact, those grandiose gestures are where black metal and classical music usually meet; the genres share a flair for the dramatic. But classical music is usually used to accentuate the macabre, the gloomily theatrical within black meal. Think Aenaon or A Forest of Stars. But that’s not what’s happening here; instead, it’s almost as if the black metal compositions and the classical music live side by side, flirting with each other like parallel lines with the same color scheme. They pulsate along the same frequency but they are not really integrated.
Check out the second track on the album, “Duality”, for example. Listen to the extended instrumental passage that starts around the three minute mark. It beings with leading guitars, blast-beats, and an overall furious sensation that is at first supported by the classical strings. But listen further along for when the black metal vocals return/are introduced; hear how the strings flourish into their own space and sound, familiar to be sure but possessed of their own qualities and texture. Later, the music “falls away” and the strings become dominant, ushering the track to its close and melding to the epic, twelve minutes long “Psychogenic” and its dominant piano. This sort of dynamic reoccurs throughout the entire album; sweeping intros, backing passages, solos, and the rest of the roles which the classical music plays in the album are decidedly independent, just as likely to become the album’s focus as the black metal segments are.
And those segments are also great! From the vocals, through the excellent drums, and all the way to the blistering drums, the black metal sounds of Lawn are just as fully realized. It almost feels like you’re listening to two albums at the same time and, somehow, this works for Cosentino. In other places, I would have cited this as a flaw; the album would feel incomplete, disjointed, and disorienting to the listener. But here, through clever compositional work and massive passion, the two parts of the music remain in communication, even if they never fully interlink. And that’s perhaps the main thing that drives Lawn and makes it work: passion. Every single note, verse, and passage on this album oozes how much Cosentino has invested into this work and how much heart was necessary to pull it off. And is that not another place where black metal and classical music meet? Indeed, is that not what makes all music work? Lawn is one of those rare albums that feels like a lightning strike, a boisterous work of ambition that blazes through and sears what you thought was possible or, indeed, recommended. It is an oftentimes weird, messy, and even disjointed album. It somehow works so incredibly well.
Christian Cosentino’s Lawn was released on March 6th. Please head on over to the Bandcamp page above and support this independent project!