The Lurking Fear
Seasoned Swedes seek out horrific new depths
Sometimes the best way to get the death metal you want is to go to the experts. Formed last year by five veterans of the Swedish scene, including At The Gates members Adrian Erlandsson and – perhaps inevitably – vocalist Tomas ‘Tompa’ Lindberg, The Lurking Fear join the acclaimed likes of Gruesome, Vallenfyre and Firespawn by applying old-school values and experience to their own subversive and ferocious ideas.
“Even really original bands like Voivod or Neurosis, they still have influences but they mix them in a new way, and that’s what we wanted to do,” says Tompa. “It needs to be fresh and interesting, with strong songs, but still leaning on those old classic death metal influences. We don’t want to be a Florida band or a ‘typical’ Swedish band – we’re bringing all these cornerstones into something new and exciting and not just retro.”
As Tompa suggests, The Lurking Fear make no apologies for their debt to Autopsy, Death, Morbid Angel and Possessed, but the songs on debut album, Out Of The Voiceless Grave, offer a distinctive and thrillingly untamed take on the death metal blueprint. Steeped in disquieting Lovecraftian atmosphere, yet precise, brutal and sonically incisive, the album comes adorned with one of the most subtly disturbing pieces of art to grace a sleeve in a long time, courtesy of revered French ingénue Stefan Thanneur.
“The whole album is based around the Lovecraft universe, but they’re my stories set in that world and I wanted an image that was all-encompassing,” Tompa explains. “It’s that idea of something really terrible and menacing lurking behind this big vortex of cosmic evil and underwater evil at the same time. When I saw the front cover, it’s a striking image, but the back cover is incredible, the thing is waiting to spew out of it… Oh man, now we’re talking, ha ha ha! Get the vinyl, because the gatefold is amazing.”
Although he and his bandmates have plenty of other commitments, not least a new At The Gates album looming over the horizon, Tompa insists that The Lurking Fear is a serious, full-time concern and not just some jovial side-project. The band already have a stash of new material for a second album and a collective enthusiasm for hitting the road that belies the fact that these men have all been playing death metal for more than a quarter of a century. Ultimately, when the virus is in your veins, escape is not an option and dedication is absolute.
“We’ve all known each other since ’88 or ’90 so we talk about old shows, like ‘Remember when Bolt Thrower played in Gothenburg in ’91?’ and everybody was there, the whole band! So that’s the spirit of it. The egos are not there either. Everyone’s really inspired and trying to help out. The amount of friendship and connection in the band is amazing. Everyone is still hungry but we’re too old and experienced to cope with any drama. Drama queens get kicked out straight away!
Who are they?
Line-up: Tomas Lindberg (vocals), Fredrik Wallenberg (guitar), Jonas Stalhammar (guitar), Andreas Axelson (bass), Adrian Erlandsson (drums)
Sounds like: Raging death fucking metal with a head full of abyssal horror.
For fans of: Autopsy, Morbid Angel, Vallenfyre
Current release: Out Of The Voiceless Grave (Century Media Records, 2017)
Irish singer-songwriter gets lost in darkness
If you’re into gothic and doom rock/metal, there’s a chance that you’ve seen Lisa Cuthbert onstage before. The Irish-born singer who now lives in Berlin has featured as guest vocalist for Sisters Of Mercy, Draconian and Helevorn before releasing her last solo album, Hextapes – now rereleased on vinyl – in 2016.
Having been diagnosed with PTSD shortly beforehand, the record was Lisa’s attempt to focus solely on herself and her healing process. Recorded and produced within her home and shelter with limited resources and engineering skills, the result is deeply personal, organic and genuine.
“I decided to make an album using what I had and I released it as it was because I just fell in love with it that way,” explains the singer. “I wanted to capture everything that I was living at the time – my mood and the atmosphere in the room where I was kind of hiding away from the world. It was like making a painting of where I was in terms of sound.”
As a result, Hextapes uses samples of different ambient noises, like the wind howling outside Lisa’s windows or rain falling down to earth.
This mode of practice isn’t the only parallel to Chelsea Wolfe you’ll find in the work and career of the Irishwoman; drones and psychedelia were also later additions to Lisa Cuthbert’s cosmos. Her 2013 debut album, Paramour, contained polished piano-pop that had little to do with the current heyday of spiritual and ritualistic music. “I wouldn’t be surprised if people who like Paramour would absolutely hate Hextapes. To be honest, I don’t like the album anymore,” she admits in regard to working with producers who banished reverb and experimentations in order to make an album that could keep up with industry standards.
“With Hextapes, I didn’t want to be controlled by the question if someone wants to put their name on an album or whether or not it’s gonna sell. Because it wasn’t about selling, it was about creating it.”
Who are they?
Line-up: Lisa Cuthbert (vocals, synths, samples, guitar, vocals)
Sounds like: Ritualistic, reverb-soaked and industrial-tinged lo-fi neo-folk seeping in from another dimension.
For fans of: Chelsea Wolfe, Darkher, Agnes Obel, Jordan Reyne
Current release: Hextapes (Iron Bonehead, 2017)
Ambitious Brits embark on an elemental adventure
Calling your debut album Prologue is a clear sign that you intend to be around for the long haul. Starting your first track with a bristling, three-minute guitar drone suggests the notion that delayed gratification is good for the soul hasn’t been lost on this London-based four-piece. Heavy, hypnotic, in parts feverishly psychedelic and willing to take in atmospheric detours as if pulling back for a stunning establishing shot, Prologue offers the first, febrile shoots of an ongoing multi-stranded narrative – a dystopian, sci-fi opera that takes in underwater cities, class war, evangelical sects and death cults, and interstellar exploration too. The music is equally textured, the four lengthy tracks always seeking out new sonic terrain that expand the mind as much as its encrusted doom grooves grip you around the gut.
“I love those old 70s sci-fi films where it’s not about people fighting, it’s about people exploring,” says frontman and story author Matthew Bunkell. I find genuine ideas way more exciting. This story is like the anti-Star Wars – it’s not about toppling the bad guy, it’s about how different factions relate, and its about understanding what the flaws are in my political beliefs as well.”
“The narrative has made us work a harder to make it that much more poignant,” adds drummer Raza Khan. “It’s made us better musicians as well, especially with the textures of the songs. Rather than making six-minute stock doom songs, each song is made up of lots of different parts. There’s a lot of light and shade, where we will calm it right down and build it up to something totally epic.”
For an album so conceptual, and whose closing track, Omega, lasts for a transformative 16 minutes, Prologue never sounds indulgent, the closings mantric riffs translating live as headspinning sonic alchemy.
“When we play Omega,” says Raza, “we’re locked in, we’re not looking at each other, and we’re just playing and it feels good to do that. We’re just lost in it.”
Who are they?
Line-up: Matthew Bunkell (vocals, bass), Matt Norris (guitar), Jamie Stake (guitar), Raza Khan (drums)
Sounds like: A multi-textured, sonic odyssey straddling doom, acoustics, stark atmospheres and hypnotically crushing crescendos.
For fans of: Yob, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Cult Of Luna
Current release: Prologue (Ripple Music, 2017)