It’s been more than three years since Lorn made its mark with Subconscious Metamorphosis – appropriately enough its first outing on that most fitting of labels for avant-garde black metal I, Voidhanger. The band had hinted during its previous full-length, and the odd split in between, that it was never going to be happy bashing out the old Norwegian hero-worship for the rest of its career. And so it was that the promise the band had shown burst forth with artful black metal creativity: Subconscious Metamorphosis mixed the Nordic chill with the creeping repetitive darkness of Eastern Europe – but then adding a thick layer of near industrial ambience which helped to flesh out the sinister, warping sound like a ruined body stretched in some dystopian torture chamber.
While it’s hard to fault something so firmly distinctive and which shone out like a beacon from the Italian scene, it was hamstrung only mildly in my view by being little over enthusiastic in its running time and one or two mid-album tracks which didn’t add as much as they could have. It wasn’t quite definitive in its own right – you felt the best was yet to come. The band’s latest EP With Claws Arrayed hints that the band is travelling on the right path towards that ultimate goal and in 40 minutes leaves you wishing for twice as much just to see what they’re capable of, and more than whetting appetites for more to come. While the Italians efforts last time round suggested a band confident in their skills but still figuring out the potential, this time the scalpel is much sharper and With Claws Arrayed delivers pretty much everything the band achieved with Subconscious and more, It feels like forcing Dark Space, Blut Aus Nord and Drudkh together with a backbone of industrial repetition and the odd bit of Bladerunner era Vangelis (on the final furlong of opening track Disharmonic Fetishism, for example).
The first track epitomises what I would expect from Lorn at this stage in the band’s career a submersive, mesmerising black metal trip that then takes flight into space opera keyboards. It would have been easy for the band to repeat that trick four more times and tail off into its own ambient universe – but instead it wisely uses the time to kick the tyres on the increasingly versatile engine, stepping on the gas on the follow-up 10-minute spree Abstract Trap with a quality slice of deep-space, trippy black metal with flashing, discordant riffs that hit you like the sonic equivalent of a strobe light. The final three tracks never quite reach the same heights and at least one could be considered filler but, with vocals free (never much of a problem for Lorn for whom I’m not sure the vocals are adding a great deal to the formula), Süt-aq-Köl nicely demonstrates that, even at an average setting, Lorn exhibits unmistakable class, before hunkering down for an industrial crawl into the depths for the final seven minutes.
Lorn is increasingly firing on all cylinders and With Claws Arrayed should be enough to silence anyone who had any doubts about the band’s talent after the slightly drawn out (but, for the most part, still excellent) previous album. The stars are now approaching in full alignment for Lorn and, without piling too much expectation on them, this EP suggests the next full-length should be a corker.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)