LURK – Aegis
RELEASE YEAR: 2023
BAND URL: https://lurkdoom.bandcamp.com/
The Finnish psychedelic doom and death rock and metallers have an interesting genre trajectory, active since 2008. Their debut Lurk²⁰¹² (on Totalrust/Svart Records) was more of a hardcorish straightforward death/doom affair with just a bit of sludge, but the Crowbar-ic and Ulcerate-d Kaldera²⁰¹⁴ (on Doomentia Records) already swayed more in the direction relealized on the subsequent Fringe²⁰¹⁸ (debuting on Transcending Obscurity Records) which I reviewed here (4.5/6), one which added synthesizers a’la pre-Ultra Depeche Mode as well as Type O’Negative and early My Dying Bride, but, most importantly became seriously psychedelic and creepy. And then Lurk stopped lurking (pun intended) for 5 years, I’m sure, largely due to the common excuse: COVID-19 2020-2022.
In my review of Fringe I wrote that Lurk was definitely one of the most unique bands I had come across recently but that Fringe suffered from some lack of songwriting focus, whereby many songs felt like a jazz rehearsal as if Lurk had been making it up going along. While I still assert that’s true for that record, with this year’s Aegis just a few seconds short of the predecessor’s length with fewer tracks, released on April 7th, I have to report a significant decrease in that uniqueness on one hand, and a tightening up songwriting, on the other. The opening “Ashlands” even goes all the way to the eponymous debut for inspiration, more powerful, more sludgy in its Crowbar-ic ways, Kimmo Koskinen vocals giving off that Phil Anselmo-ic Down-ish vibe, “Ashlands”, indeed, being one of the most coherent and consistent tracks on the album, a great opener. Lurk peaks early, at the favorite “Shepherd’s Ravine”, with a fantastic sludgy bluessy heavy metal riff recalling Ministry and Mastodon which smartly morphs into a My Dying Bride-ian doom melody courtesy of Arttu “Lord War Torech” Pulkkinen (also synths!) and drummer and producer’s Kalle Nurmi interesting and innovative guitarwork with E. Nurmi’s (brother?) bass (since 2018) as loud and as good as the late Cliff Burton’s on Metallica’s “Anasthesia – Pulling Teeth” or Greg Christian’s on Testament’s Low album, plus Koskinen’s tortured creepy vocals at the doomy part recall Descend Into Despair’s “Mirrors Of Flesh”.
It’s at this point where Lurk disappoints by playing it safe on the following “Infidel” and “Hauta”, both good tracks but, essentially, of the same structure, a creepy ambient Ulcerate-ian rhythm followed by a recurring chorus riff. In the former I hear echoes of Depeche Mode’s “Barrel Of A Gun” but both tracks exude that Carach Angren doom rock creepiness that makes you stay away from the lyrics for fear of enhanced terror. “Blood Surge”, while structurally very similar to its two predecessors, is surprisingly more Swedish death metal oriented, even with some hints of Gateways To Annihilation Morbid Angel in the main riffing along with more, again, Mastodon-ic accents even if its consistent with the prevalent minimalistic approach on this album, all of which leads to the album’s only instrumental “Kehto” evocative of Music For The Masses Depeche Mode somewhere between “Pimpf” and “Pleasure Little Treasure” from the extended version. And then, the closing “The Blooming” brings back the early 90s Carcass dressed in a sludgy pace and tonnage and a clear old school “tru” black metal riffing opening the track is also duly noted but, mostly the closer seems to be a somewhat succesful attempt at reconnecting to the power of the opener. In any case, it does do something different to detract from the monotony of most of the album.
Not as engaging and twisted as Fringe while occassionally sporting a better songwriting and definitely much better and more powerful courtesy of Kalle Nurmi’s production and mix as well as Jasse Kesti’s mastering, Lurk’s 4th offering both disappoints and shows indications of progress which may end up being fully realized and surprise us on the next offering. Fringe may have had better ideas and was overall more consistent, which I realize now as I compare the two, which is important to emphasize since both albums got the same score for different reasons, but, judging from the strength of the first two cuts, Lurk is still a band to watch out for capable of great things and I, for one, am not giving up on them quite yet.