Written by Kep
>Light Dweller – Lucid Offering
>Blackened dissonant death metal
>Released June 21, 2022
Look, lots of metal is ugly by design, and that’s part of its twisted charm. Gorguts gave us the blueprint back in 1998 with Obscura and likeminded bands have been doing their damndest to make mind-bending dissonant death metal ever since. Some outfits, though, aren’t content to just do ugly; they want to create something truly harrowing. Light Dweller is one of those harrowers.
If you’re not yet aware of Cameron Boesch’s Arizona-based solo project, you’ve got a bit of catching up to do. Since 2018 he’s release an EP and four full-lengths, including a killer one-two punch of the bestial Hominaland the haunting Apparition in 2020. The overall musical style has been consistent—hideous, dissonance-forward blackened death metal with particularly monstrous vocals and a crawling chaos of grotesque riffage—but there’s been a definite progression of sound as well. Light Dweller has gradually become more polished, the riffs tighter and twistier, the drum programming stronger and more impactful, and, most notably, the atmosphere more full of an all-encompassing dread. Apparition in particular was a highly atmospheric album, with lengthier tracks, a more expansive scope, and several notable passages of synth-y creeping disquiet. Lucid Offering is more in line with Hominal and the other pre-Apparition releases, but Boesch has brought a lot of that more mature and developed atmospheric sensibility along for the ride.
Just to be clear, before I get caught up in describing all the cool things going on here: this is Light Dweller’s strongest outing by a comfortable margin, which is impressive when you consider the strength of the strength of the back catalogue. The (goddamn terrifying) Adam Burke cover art fully embodies the listening experience, which is above all else ghastly and full of searing horror. It’s music from the depths of hell filtered through the broken human mind, visceral and incandescent and mutilating.
At the center of it all: riffs. Lots and lots of angular, cryptic riffs. Approximately all of the riffs. Some will batter you with pounding drums and meaty chords until you’re unrecognizably bruised and bloodied, while others will rip and tear at your flesh with whipping tendrils of barbed lashes, and still others will bowl you over with a wall of blast beat-driven blackened fury. As you can probably imagine, there are a ton of standout riffs of all types across the record, and they’re all nasty as hell. From the mid-paced pummeling chug in the middle of the title track, to the brawny again-and-again descent a third of the way through opener “Succumb”, to the hulking main riff of “Incantation Upon a Withered Entity”, to the brutal discordance of “Hominal”, the guitars will grind you down with unpredictable brutality and you’ll love every second. Lucid Offering is an exercise in brutish, ugly material, but there are so many moments that show a clear refinement, belying the ugliness. There’s a passage that floored me near the end of “Conjurer of Light”, with an expansive blackened melody and sublime harmony that I swear reminds me of Mahler’s symphonies.
Now you know me: I love my fucking riffs. But oddly enough, my favorite moments on Lucid Offering might just be the little progressive and atmospheric touches that bring shades of Apparition’s ghostly ambience to this more typically savage outing. There are a couple passages— the final stretches of “Succumb” and “Kaleidoscope of Thorns”—that make outstanding use of piano as an added texture. You’ll also find a few somber moments of uneasy beauty that provide a moment of respite from the general oppressiveness; the subdued, quietly ominous opening of final track “Spiritual Eclipse” is a great example. These touches are always calculated and organic, never forced in, and there’s just enough to add judiciously to the album as a whole without getting overbearing.
On the remaining fronts, Boesch remains what we knew he was: a capable songwriter whose songs make the most of their material but don’t overstay their welcome. The 37 minutes of are ideal and the seven tracks have just enough variety. Boesch’s rhythm section, comprising himself on bass and his programmed drums, is as good as it’s ever been; the drums in particular feel the most natural they’ve ever felt while retaining an enjoyable quirkiness, especially in passages with lots of hi-hat. And in terms of vocals, his gargantuan demonic growls are highly effective paired with the menacing dissonance; they anchor the whole performance to a distinctly deep and diabolical realm. The lyrics are worth a special look, too, full of elegantly-written imagery of the most sinister sort: “Birthed and stripped of my own independence, you are my ascendant, my lantern in this abyssal ruin called life.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Here’s the deal, folks. If you like your metal ugly, dissonant, monstrous, teeming with legions of riffs, or any combination of those things, get Lucid Offering in your ears ASAP on June 21. It will strip you, flay you, then chew you up and spit you out, but chances are you’ll be back for more. Two broken and burnt thumbs way up.