Review by Chris Pratl on November 18, 2018.
Some bands just seem to attract and generate a buzz, most with minimal substance to back up such reverence, but now and again a gem surfaces from the din. Finland’s Lantern, a relative unknown band despite two fine demos and an EP, issue the initial debut, Below, with a certain amount of similar reverence, and of course I was skeptical. I usually am, after all. A country most notable for epic, operatic power metal usually sends up red flags for most underground fans these days.
Well, I sit here in a state of rare indecision; I’m not exactly sure how to describe Lantern’s sound. There is what I can only deem a discernible sound of hollowness throughout, both in the vocal and the music, and these are absolute pluses. From the first track (“Rites of Descent”) there seems to be a genuine air of subjugation, of total subservience to the sound. The vocals are a primitive, yet deathly crooning that balances the line between a death/doom and straight forward death style quite nicely. There is no obvious tumultuousness in the music as a whole, but there is certainly a general feeling of something haunting and beautiful. I have only used this comparison once before, but the music reminds me of a ghastly old parlor, chairs covered in dusty white linen, and a sparse stream of light crooking in from a wayward shade some decades past usefulness. When I hear this music these are central images I conjure up in my mind’s eye.
Lantern is making noise for very good reason. In a sea of death metal vying for attention with grindcore lyrics, album art, or that flat-out just reek of blandness, a band like Lantern emerges and really rejuvenates a medium with honest, talented music fir for mass consumption. The two men responsible for this deadly effort, Cruciatus and Necrophilos, tap into the lower regions of the mind’s cellar and produce an array or noise and sounds that earmark the shallow, fearsome parts of one’s core. I get lost in the literal forlornness of the vocal delivery with its echoed resonance. The tone just sticks with me, and every time I put on this record the anticipatory reverence I feel awaiting the first vocal initiative is always a mainstay.
The music seems to flow into typical death metal areas within a thick and smothering production, but in the case of “Manifesting Shambolic Aura” there’s a shifting within that seems to disturb the expected line of thought, changing like a Johnny Craig monster from a Vault of Horror comic with little warning or reason. Whatever the goal, the manifestation is a welcome relief from the expectant direction of many a similar band. With Lantern’s use of simplistic and diverse distinctions, Below becomes not just one of the many but one among a few that can haunt your thoughts with infectious chords and ringing growls too illuminating to deny.
There are depths of darkness, peaks of shaded light, cellars of dampness and storms of speedy allegory all within this mix. Below is just one of the rare musical entries that you can’t just file away after a couple of unfocused listens. No matter what, when this music is in the air you seem to be totally submissive to its allure, and it will keep you coming back for repeated visits. With a subtle slant of antiquity and a generous amount of present-day magic, Lantern’s Below becomes all-consuming, an ever-encompassing voyage to the central spots where imagination and solemnity make strange, albeit necessary bedfellows.
Rating: 9 out of 10
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)