BAND OF THE WEEK: Luminous Vault
Black/death + electronics. No, wait! Don't leave yet. This one is actually awesome.
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So by now you’re probably used to the Band Of The Week having an album out today, or this week, and to be people I’ve interviewed and have quotes from. Well, Luminous Vault are neither, just so you don’t get too comfortable in here. You wouldn’t anyway, because of the challening nature of this debut album of theirs that I’ll talk to you about, but more of that in a minute. So, ‘Animate The Emptiness’ isn’t out today, but it is at least recent, it came out on May 20th via the typically reliable Profound Lore (I know, I know, first I got into an unintentional UK band rabbit hole with this feature, now it’s apparently Profound Lore bands), who have also become regulars in throwing us a few electronic/synth/not-just-urrrrgh-metal-savagery curveballs over the past few years. In the case of Luminous Vault, they didn’t have to look hard - not only is Artifical Brain’s bassist/vocalist Samuel Smith one half of the duo (the other half being Mario Diaz de León, whom you might know from the amazing Oneirogen, who have put out a few very unusual and stellar noise/dark ambient records on Denovali), but they had already released the previous EP, ‘Charismata’, way back in 2017. It was a bit of a wait for a proper record, yes, but it’s been worth it.
Forget all you know about these genre-mixes, first of all. And if you have reservations, I get you. The amount of musical crimes that have been committed in the name of “mixing x-metal with electronics”, or worse still, when lesser non-metal synth/electro bands decide to do a bit “aggro”, would be enough for a worldwide ban to be put on such crossovers. Fortunately there’s a few bright spots here and there, and Luminous Vault really do hit the nail on the head with the mastery they show of both sides of the equation. Because you can usually tell which of the above it is, can’t you? If it’s a metal band who’s been handed a synth or a new computer, or if it’s an electro band who just started listening to Slayer or whatever. In this case, everything is part of the same brutal, punishing whole. The riffs, the incandescent vocalizations, the impact of the beats (I mistakenly wrote “beast” instead of “beats” just now, and almost left it like that as it made so much sense), the properly industrial, “organic machinery” kind of feel to it all that even recalls prime Ministry at times, and above all the very Godfleshian restraint to not just blastbeat-attack everything. Luminous Vault know how to pace a song, they know how to let each beat of the (electronic) kick drum shake you down to its core; each squirming guitar lead, be it tremolo-driven or just swathes of feedback-drenched melody, slide inside your spinal cord and spread its poison from there; and even each inspiring, feverish moment that allows a sliver of light to shine through to do it unashamedly, the prime example of which being the amazing final track ‘Ancient North’.
Yeah, this last point is important. ‘Animate The Emptiness’ doesn’t just offer you a mood, it really takes you on a ride. Blut Aus Nord have been thrown about a bit as a comparison, and more than any sonic similarities, this is the way in which I believe that parallel makes the most sense, as Vindsval offers a similar sense of travelling through his records with changing vibes and atmospheres. There’s creepiness, there’s violence, there’s pondering and meditation, and there is, finally, transcendence. But don’t just believe me, just lend a quick ear to two of my personal highlights that also, conveniently, also highlight the masterful dynamics of the whole thing. On one hand, you get a rabid, face-peeling number like this thing here, complete with an awesome breakdown of sorts around the three-minute mark and all the chugging indus-metal riffs you might like (even if they might throw a couple of da-da-da-da synth notes on top of them just to fuck with you):
On the other hand, just close your eyes and lay back as the ethereal, slithering beauty of that closing track envelops you:
Did you notice that even the vocals change tone, intention and even volume? And that’s not just because both Sam and Mario both contribute, that’s knowing how to transmit, well, whatever the hell they are trying to transmit with these intonations. I’ll let the press release tell you all about that: “Diaz de Leon and Smith’s vocal lines alternately evoke apocalyptic sermons and a call from otherworldly depths, with surrealistic lyrics that draw inspiration from psychospiritual trials and transformations, full of alchemical imagery,” it says there, which means my house and my car should be seething with shit from otherworldly depths by now, considering the amount of times I’ve let these people evoke all over them. To be honest, I don’t care, it’s worth it.
Here’s the whole thing so we can all share a few of those demons:
’Animate The Emptiness’ is out now via Profound Lore Records. You can conveniently check out their entire online presence here