Written by Westin
Lightlorn – At One With the Night Sky
> Atmospheric post-black metal
> Releasing October 27
> Black Lion Records
I apologize to everyone who’s annoyed by me constantly shouting about it on Twitter, but: 2023 is the Year of the Black Metal Rennaisance. Metal is, in my opinion, at a creative peak during the past four years, and black metal in particular has been a dominant voice this solar revolution. I have heard so much good black metal this year that I can recall over a dozen instances where I’ve thought “this might be the best black metal of the year”, and they just keep coming. Lightlorn is the latest in a long line of impressive black metal releases this year.
Formed in 2021, Lightlorn is a duo comprised of multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and songwriter Renwar alongside drummer Riaan Coertze, who is also the sole-instrumentalist behind SIN.thetic. They released the EP These Nameless Worlds (which made Kep’s list of EPs of the year) in 2022 before coming to the brand new debut full length.
The fact that is such a young project, and the only project Renwar has under their belt at that, is nothing short of extraordinary. This debut is as powerful and well-crafted as any other album I’ve heard this year. Renwar pulls the all duty on At One With the Night Sky, writing the entire album and playing everything alongside Coertze‘s vocals, so in many ways this becomes a one-person bedroom black metal project in spirit if not in practice. That singular creative position lends itself to the strength of the album’s reach, built on themes of cosmic space and solemn loneliness. Opener “Amongst Stellar Remnants” begins with a bass-y drone and pulsing synth that sounds more like the buildup to a DJ namedrop but instead kicks right into full melodic black metal for a solid minute. There is a brief but stark instrumental dropout to leave room for some spacey clean guitar licks and synth that feel adrift right before being assaulted by the asteroid ring of black metal that follows. The combination of bright guitar tone and up-tempo drumming with Renwar’s evocative vocal tone create a strong sense of melancholic loneliness, a reminder of the vast scope of the cosmic landscape that lay beyond us. The lyrics are built around grappling with the end of light and the inevitable finite nature of existence, even on a scale as grand as the celestial; “Here at the end of creation / Stars long cold, dead remnants / Such grandeur in emptiness / Such splendour in darkness”.
This particular musical tone, the bright melancholy coupled with absolute harshness, reminds me of last year’s Island by Asunojokei. The bands are quite different, but they similarly play in a post-black metal space by building around these incredibly bright, almost painfully so, guitars that bely the dark and emotionally fraught nature of the lyrics and concept. Whereas that band builds around the personal, Renwar brings this contrast to space, where it becomes grim in the harsh exposure to open space. If Deafheaven are sunbathers, Lightlorn are drowning in a sea of radiation and decayed radio waves. The little flourishes of synth and electronic music not only emphasize the ethereal infinitude of the bands aesthetic, but also lends to its musical identity. I can hear touches of post-punk, itself a genre seeking to expand beyond pre-defined boundaries and finding the endlessness in the internal, which colour the music further with shades otherwise lost in the grim light of deep space. The beginning of “Spiral Arms and Swirling Rivers”, were it not for the rapid double kick drumming, carries the shimmering guitars and near-pop musicality of The Cure that transitions through reintroduction of those painfully bright guitars and the harshness of Renwar’s vocals. The song closes by returning to this sound, replete with piano, to fully encapsulate the sad tone that exists simultaneously in tandem with and outside of black metal.
If I had to make any criticism of the record, it’s that I want more. I want to hear more of the synth, more of the post-punk sound, because it gives Lightlorn such an intriguing identity and point of view. If this sound is expanded upon and further shaped, it could easily turn the band into one of the most unique projects in black metal.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Lightlorn are a standout in a cosmic sea of excellent black metal releases this year. At One With the Night Sky is one of the most emotionally evocative records you’ll hear in 2023. This band has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to hear more from them.