Some debut albums are by simple virtue of being the first release by the band tentative, formative, maybe a little unsure. That cannot be said in any way of ‘Lilith’ by Portugal’s Lâmina. Points were instantly won when I opened the strangely shaped envelope that popped through the letterbox, and inside was a CD in a beautifully illustrated fold out triangular sleeve, guaranteed to have old hippies like me smiling, whilst simultaneously annoying shop shelf stackers and those who like to file their music away with a hint of OCD. Even the pocket that the disc nestled in was illustrated within, and I was almost tempted to steam the thing apart for a better look; almost!
But enough eulogising about the first impressions of the packaging, what about the music? Well, I can tell you that my first impression of that was plain and simply “WOW!” This is an album that any long established act would be proud to produce deep into their career, coming together with an accomplished style that speaks volumes of the ability and confidence of the band. ‘Cold Blood’ opens with a thundering drum that races towards the listener like the frantic hooves of a cavalry charge, all before twin guitars and bass build up heavy throbbing layers of doom laden goodness, the heaviness of the music a contrast to the surprisingly delicate delivery of the lyrics by Vasco Miarte, the high, clean vocals being so different from the gruff growl that many singers of the genre effect, the song building up to a trippy crescendo that fades into drawn out effects. The heaviness continues with the rumbling bass intro of ‘Big Black Angel’, a number characterised by the sort of looping hypnotic riffs that were once the sole domain of Matt Pike, only to be followed by the ridiculously catchy ‘Evil Rising’ a number that has an almost pop infectiousness without sacrificing integrity, a bloody neat trick to pull off if you can manage it, and Lâmina do.
For those of you who are put off by the idea that music should be in anyway potentially populist, worry not, because straight afterwards the band pile in with the epic of ‘Maze’, a track that frankly could be released as an EP and get a separate review all of its own. Acoustic guitars interwoven by ghostly whispers open the song before the amps are fired up, and haunting plucked chords with the menace of a John Carpenter soundtrack slowly build up into a wall of sonic pummelling delivered with a creeping heaviness that will have any doom fan worth their salt nodding along in dark appreciation. The track then develops into a full on psychedelic jam to lift the spirits, and even though it clocks in at over twenty minutes, it is over all too suddenly, and I found myself hitting replay time and again, well, as often as time would allow.
Retro nostalgia follows strongly with ‘Psychodevil’, the addition of a swirling Hammond style organ making the track sound like a throwback to an acid drenched biker movie from way back when, fading into ‘Education for Death’ that positively sprints past in barely two minutes of fuzzy bass heavy goodness. This all leads to the pseudo-title track ‘In The Warmth of Lilith’, where laconic stoner vibes dominate, aided and abetted by the addition a mournful cello, a musical accompaniment that has been added so successfully by bands such as Spider Kitten and Alunah on their fantastic ‘Solennial’.
If you’ve been able to wade this far through my rambling hyperbole, you might remember I used the phrase “first impression” to describe the music of ‘Lilith’. To be honest, this review is no first play write up, as I found myself replaying the album time and time again before settling down to type. It’s not because the music is hard to get into, far from it, as it manages to combine an immediacy with rewarding the listener with new undiscovered elements on repeated plays. It’s just that Lâmina have produced an album so damn good that I was too busy enjoying it to remember I was meant to be writing a review! Treat yourself and buy this album, it’s an absolute gem.