Following Lamp of Murmuur these last few years has been a fascinating journey. The project began as one of many voices screaming out raw, lo-fi black metal, releasing a steady stream of demos leading up to 2020's excellent Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism. The voyage then took us to death-rock territory, seeing the mysterious "M." explore his love of Sisters of Mercy and similar acts on Submission and Slavery. And so we come to 2023, and Lamp of Murmuur has brought us to a new destination. Well, it's actually one that will feel like home to dedicated black metal fans, as it looks an awful lot like the frozen shores of Blashyrkh.
Alright, so I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea and think this album is solely an Immortal tribute. That is the first thing that comes to mind, and it's especially apparent on "In Communion With the Wintermoon" (I mean, Christ, it has the word Wintermoon in it). But this album is better understood as a conglomeration of three of the best black metal recordings of all time: Immortal's At the Heart of Winter, Satyricon's Nemesis Divina and (to a lesser extent) Enslaved Frost.
The Immortal influence is apparent from the guitar tone and riff structure through much of the album. And I choose At the Heart of Winter as the riffs and their accompanying rhythms remind me very strongly of songs like "Withstand the Fall of Time," and "Tragedies Blows At Horizon." But M.'s vocals most certainly do not mimic Abbath's signature snarl. Rather, they sound a lot more like Satyr's grunts on songs like "Mother North" and occasionally like Grutle's growls on songs like "Jotunblod." This goes for some of the song structures as well, as some of the grander moments recall those on Satyricon's "The Dawn Of A New Age."
This is all to make clear what M.'s influences probably were on this album. And these are just the immediate ones that come to mind. It's all still filtered through the Lamp of Murmuur filter. Don't worry, M. didn't lose his chorus pedal, he's just become much more meticulous about how and when he uses it.
There's an overall feeling of discipline and intention that flows through this album. Lamp of Murmuur no longer feels like a fun project that produces some really cool variations on the raw black metal template, but like a serious force that means business! Fans of the project's earlier work will probably enjoy "Hymns of Death, Rays of Might" the most, as the mood here most-closely resembles that of the demo-era material.
From the moment "Conqueror Beyond the Frenzied Fog" comes on, there's a immediate punch and precision to the music. All the cold and raw energy is still there, but M. has channeled it in a brilliant way that gives it more force and power. Anyone who needs convincing should crank up the double-kick pounding on "Seal of the Dominator" or the absolutely epic and multifaceted title track at the end of the album.
No longer a flowing flurry of snow, Lamp of Murmuur now has the effect of a crushing ice storm. At this rate, I hope the sun never comes out.