The tagline to a now-classic sci-fi horror film states that no one can hear you scream in space. Thankfully, Copenhagen’s post-metal quartet LLNN cares more about the fiction than the science when it comes to music they make. The band’s debut Loss was a bit of a darling when it dropped in 2016, and now they are back with a brand new LP. Deads will release on April 27th through Pelagic Records and is an eight-song odyssey through the bleakness of the cosmos. While post-metal, in general, is defined by its dense atmosphere, LLNN’s synth-driven take on the genre helps set them apart.
“Despots” is the first song in the tracklisting on Deads, and we are immediately introduced to the bleak soundscapes that we’ll hear coming back again and again on the record. The twenty-second build drops out, leaving an audible vacuum that lingers for only a second before the guitars, bass, drums, and vocals all collide, beginning the song in earnest. LLNN no doubt owes a lot Neurosis, but the vocals and aggression are more akin to Converge here, with the vocals by Christian Bonnesen verging on terrifying. This pairing of massive sonic aura and the frantic drama of the vocals pervades Deads’ runtime and makes this one of the more unique records that I’ve heard this year.
“Parallels”, the second song, takes a slightly different approach on song-structure. The drumming plays the part of the lead instrument for the first minute and a half. The groove is incredibly catchy, that is until the guitars and vocals rise up and annihilate it. The synth rises to monolithic proportions in support of this uprising, and remains even when the groove returns. This layering overwhelmed me when listening to this track. The density of the atmosphere paired with the intensity of the instrumentation and vocal delivery makes for a palpable experience. The same can be said of track three, “Armada.” It’s one of the longest songs on Deads, and this allows the drama more time to unfold. Chugging guitars, vocals at fever pitch, and powerful synth effects make this a standout.
It’s somewhat easy to oversimplify what LLNN are doing on this album and as a band in general. If I were to just call it ‘sci-fi post-metal’ or ‘synth-led’, it could be easy to imagine what this would sound like, and dismiss it kind of quickly. What I want to drive home is that while this marriage of ideas makes sense, it’s also extremely well executed here. Each song maximizes these ideas even though the approach is varied throughout Deads. From the somewhat subdued instrumental track “Civilizations” to the more plodding “Appeaser,” the implementation and creation of these compositions aren’t as easy as the band makes it seem. I’d also like to point, while overall this is an intense experience, it’s rather easy to listen to. Part of this is the 80’s-esque effects and the great mixing, but also the runtime is manageable at around forty minutes.
One of the most intense moments of this album comes in the form of “Deplete.” Its fury is fed by a more traditional approach to the genre, with the synth take more of a backseat, and the frantic guitars leading the charge. This is the sixth of eight tracks, so the placement of this frenetic ball of energy comes at the right time, assisting the overall pacing of the album. After a gravity-free drift through space wreckage with the penultimate “Structures,” we get to the title track. “Deads” starts with one of the most minimalistic moments to be found on the entire album. The drums and vocals are working together and more subdued than usual until the cinematic impenetrability returns.
My time spent with Deads has taught me that even when I think a genre that I love may be creatively tapped out, along will come someone to enlighten me. It’s hard to imagine a better execution of the ideas on which this record is built. LLNN have made a bleak and mesmerizing album that measures up with some of the best post-metal has to offer. It’s innovative but still relatable, and will no doubt be a favorite among fans of boundary-pushing music.
Notable Tracks:”Armada”; “Deplete”; “Structures”.
FFO: Converge, Neurosis, Lo!.