Talk of paranoid apocalyptic premonitions, dystopian nightmares and massive environmental destruction all point to a black post-metal remit, and this is what we get from the Norwegian band Lakei. The big chords, ponderous bass and thundersome heaviness recall earlier Cult of Luna and Neurosis. The album sleeve has a human skull vomiting rotting larvae, a representation of the album’s themes, we’re told.

The mixing of this album was carried out at the renowned Studio Fredman in Sweden and the quality of production shows through the gloom. “Konsiprajoner” (Conspiracies) is bleak and bulky but not minimalistic. There is undoubted intensity as the vocalist roars his way through a backdrop of razor-sharp guitars, massive bass and pumping drums. There is even a hint of melancholy on the title track in spite of its terminal relentlessness. Yet I felt there was something missing. After the introduction, the album works its way through a series of broadly four minute tracks, which amount to short statements rather than a steadily mounting pressure cooker which would normally be associated with this genre. There are many impressive passages and the pace does change. The deep and darkly post hardcore “Ansikter” speeds up to a fair pace without losing its shadowy and apocalyptic grimness. It is surprisingly upbeat and rousing. “Despot” comes from a different angle. Ponderous and heavier than lead, the vocalist roars his way through the black treacle, aided by a pumping drum and enriched by a colourful guitar line.

The fast and triggering “Budbringer” features a hardcore-style chorus but as throughout the album, the landscape is permanently grey and overall it’s the musical equivalent of a slab of meat. There are other touches such as the sounds of industrial processes and feedback, military-style drumming and on the title track a combination of a sad-sounding violin and machine gun drumming to end. But in spite of all the blackened intensity and ideas, these tracks stand alone, could be in any order and there’s no sense of development. It’s a shame that this album didn’t build on the awesome opening track “Domsavsigelse” (Judgement). It consists of a distorted, spoken voice, a patient drum beat and a single repeated chord. As the track develops, we hear a male stating in Queen’s English “10 years in prison”, “20 years in prison” and finally “not guilty”. But by this stage we are made to feel the weight of guilt.

This kind of music needs to be gargantuan, and for me “Konspirasjoner” was intense without building up the dark clouds to the extent where it became overwhelming. It had many good moments and succeeded in creating dark moods but with its relatively short sound bites it wouldn’t have mattered if it had lasted 10 minutes more or 10 minutes less. I just thought it was mostly an exercise in sounds and lacked thematic continuity.

(5 / 10, Andrew Doherty)