December 7, 2021

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Lantlôs: Wildhund Album Review | Pitchfork


Lantlôs, a project led by German multi-instrumentalist Markus Siegenhort, were adventurous from the jump, combining icy black metal with post-rock and jazz in the late 2000s. While their sound has softened since then, their creativity has not. It’s been a full seven years since they did away almost entirely with screams and blastbeats on the epic suite Melting Sun. Its long-awaited follow-up, Wildhund, nixes longform compositions for a punchier sound. And while plenty of metal bands have gone shoegaze over the past decade, this music smashes those familiar tropes into a million kaleidoscopic pieces.

Wildhund’s aesthetic is as distinctive as it is lurid: Its swirl of thick riffs is held aloft by zero-gravity drumming, and its melodies are buoyant enough to support a tricky array of grooves. Shoegaze, in part, stuck as a genre tag because of the slouched posture needed to monitor a multitude of effects pedals onstage. Lantlôs deliver those same heavily treated wallops of guitar with a hooky earnestness that’s directly at odds with that brooding stereotype. Wildhund’s closest forebears are probably Hum and Deftones, bands whose hi-fi takes on shoegaze led the genre far from its origins. But even those bands’ most ebullient moments—say, the former’s “Stars” and the latter’s “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)”—seem dour in the face of Wildhund’s life-drunk enthusiasm.

As much as Lantlôs diverge from shoegaze norms—as on the giddy, souped-up “Magnolia”—they stray even further from black metal. Siegenhort, alongside his former bandmate and Alcest frontman Neige, is considered one of the forefathers of the blackgaze subgenre, having helped to establish the sound in its pre-Sunbather wilderness period. In particular, the band’s 2010 album, .neon, which features Neige on vocals, stands as an early touchstone, its infusion of jazzy chords and loose drumming exploring a direction that few contemporaries have been able to replicate. While Melting Sky pushed the band toward post-rock grandeur, Wildhund is even more divorced from that era’s abrasiveness.

Across the album, the band only sparingly incorporates screaming and double bass drum beatdowns. On songs like “Home,” “The Bubble,” and “Amber,” these touchstones of extreme music are used as punctuation marks rather than cathartic climaxes. Drummer Felix Wylezik and Siegenhort, who handles the remainder of the instrumentation, keep the energy cranked with little time for build-ups or crescendos. They hit the ground running and rarely let up, save for a breathy, ambient interlude (“Cloud Inhaler”), and they keep things catchy but structurally engaging with earwormy mini-breakdowns. These flourishes, such as the crushing two-beat motif in opener “Lake Fantasy,” the jerky breakdown that opens and recurs throughout “Home,” and the abrupt switches in and out of triplets on “The Bubble,” freshen up songs that, if delivered in more straightforward fashion, would already be outstanding alt-rock cuts. Augmented by Lantlôs’ rhythmic dexterity and prismatic guitar tones, the sparkling Wildhund offers thrills beyond immediate catchiness while also raising a question why everything so musically impressive can’t be this catchy.

A potent mix of black metal’s bombast and shoegaze’s smeared beauty, Melting Sun was a daring album, but years down the road, Wildhund takes its experimentation even farther. It’s not just Lantlôs’ continued pursuit of genre-mashing—Siegenhort’s vocal approach is so wide-eyed that it almost moves the album out of the blackgaze conversation entirely. The genre is no stranger to colorful artwork (see r/blackgaze’s header collage of album artwork) but with lyrics about “pastel coated bubble blower[s],” “supersonic swirl[s] of azure nectar,” and in a particularly Owl City moment, “100 million butterflies,” Siegenhort brings that palette to life. Were he shrieking so raggedly that his words’ true nature was revealed only in lyric booklets—the ultimate act of black metal introversion—the album might sound more bracing, and therefore more challenging. But at this stage in Siegenhort’s career, delivering his words in such a clear voice with his chest puffed out feels like the more radical act.

If the melodies weren’t so catchy, the song structures so dizzying, and the production so gleaming, Wildhund might crumble under the weight of its own outsized ambition. But amid a sea of metal artists breaking free from stifling genre confines only to land on a self-propelled treadmill of equally tired and gloomy signifiers, Lantlôs’ embrace of hooks and lysergic imagery is refreshing. At a climactic moment on “The Bubble,” Siegenhort sings, “Elevate me, make me feel again.” Within the trajectory of his music—and blackgaze as a whole—that is exactly what Wildhund seeks to do.


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