Lysende Skygger, the second release from German solo act Forlatt, is the kind of release that has the potential for unleashing some very strong opinions within black metal circles. The reason for that is simple: even though the band describe themselves as “black metal, post-rock”, and their Metal Archives page describes them as “atmospheric post-black metal”, there’s a real emphasis on the “post” part of that equation. Atmosphere is king here, to the extent that it’s almost valid to ask if it’s a black metal record at all (rather than one influenced by black metal). But the truth is, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of what genre you tag it with, Lysende Skygger is a triumph of atmospheric, dynamic instrumental music, with influences and sounds far beyond those typically expected.
The first half of the album is where the black metal aspects are most readily apparent. Opening track “From Obscurity Downwards To Illusion” is, after its introductory segment, built upon atmospheric, frostbitten guitars, evoking a desolate, cold atmosphere. The melodies and sense of space is nothing unusual for atmospheric black metal, full of that mix of beauty and violence that black metal captures so well. It’s with “Path Among Empty Columns” that it starts to become clear that Lysende Skygger is not a record that adds some post-rock influences to the typical black metal sound, but one where the non-metal elements are just as (if not more) important. The track is more post-rock than black metal, with its soaring, spacious melodies and wandering atmosphere. There may still be buzzsaw guitars at points, but they’re given less prominence than previously.
“You Can’t Escape From Nothingness” is perhaps the best example of how the two can meet. At almost twenty minutes long, the track has plenty of time to ebb and flow, building and releasing tension and atmosphere as it goes. There are some delightfully vicious sections where tortured guitars and undeniably black metal riffs reign supreme, before giving way to spacious, melancholic atmospheres, before the violence and dangers gradually takes over once more. Impressively, the track doesn’t feel nearly as long as it is, which is to its credit. The same can be said of Lysende Skygger as a whole. It doesn’t feel nearly as long as its 67 minute running time, such is the strength and hold of its captivating atmosphere.
It’s with fourth track “Leichtelektron” that black metal is almost abandoned as part of Lysende Skygger‘s sound. Gentle keys and glitch rhythms accompany subdued post-rock melodies, with austere keyboard melodies taking the lead in the later half of the track. It’s more comparable to a mix of ambient, post-rock, and the glitchier side of IDM than it is anything to do with black metal. Whilst it is more of an interlude track – being less than four minutes long, it is by far the shortest track, as most are over ten minutes long – it signifies a willingness to look beyond genre constraints. Whilst following track “The Center… Oppressive” brings black metal strongly back in to the mix, that sense of creativity is still felt throughout. This is further evidenced by closer “Meerelektron”, which carries on where “Leichtelektron” left off.
What’s most remarkable about Lysende Skygger though is not that it embraces such unusual sounds and influences, but that it makes them all work together. As varied as the individual tracks (and sections within songs) may be, the overall melancholy atmosphere and spirit is incredibly consistent, and perfectly in line with the depressive, atmospheric side of black metal. Regardless of this, what matters isn’t whether Lysende Skygger is a black metal record with outside influences, or a post-rock one with black metal influences, or whatever. What matters is the quality of music, and the experience it offers. Both come highly recommended, as this is a perfect album to sink in to on a long, restless night of solitude and reflection.
Lysende Skygger can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp.