Review: Time Lurker – “Time Lurker”

Time Lurker is a one-man atmospheric black metal project that came to life in Strasbourg, France in 2014. Though it is technically a solo project, a number of other musicians contributed to this record, including members of ParamnesiaPyrecult, and Le Mal des Ardents. Their debut full-length album, the eponymous Time Lurker, channels charts a course that explores the nature of the human condition through the medium of introspective, atmospheric black metal. Stylistically it reminds me of Mare Cognitum, Aureole, or Spectral Lore. The sheer scale and ambition of the compositions contained within is as impressive as it is daunting, the intensity of the emotions and the consequential catharsis exhausting. While it very occasionally bites off more than it can chew, Time Lurker is an exhilarating, emotionally draining record from start to finish.

By way of background to this review, I should say that there was a time when I was deeply enamoured by atmospheric black metal as a genre. And I do still enjoy it, though perhaps to a lesser extent. But it strikes me that there is a significant difference between “atmospheric black metal” and atmospheric black metal. The former is a style of music that probably reached saturation in the last couple of years, while bands at the forefront such as Altar of Plagues broke up or moved on to new adventures. Concurrent with this saturation, my tastes began to develop more towards the likes of bands such as Deathspell Omega and the Icelandic scene, towards more abrasive and experimental horizons. Even Alcest‘s latest album “Kodama” lacked the staying power I hoped it would have for me. And yet to some extent Time Lurker has managed to draw me in again.

Time Lurker put their best foot forward on this record. The opening run of the first three songs on this record (‘Rupture’, ‘Judgment’, and ‘Etheral Hands’) are an exhilarating and cathartic experience. At their best, these songs channel genuine moments of darkness and despair, the melancholy feelings of hope, gloom and wonder.  The intensity and severity of these moments are genuinely breathtaking, and you may find at the end of the song that you’ve been holding your breath without realising it. The percussion forms the backbone of the band’s sound, and the performance is particularly impressive – dynamic and exciting, aggressive when it needs to be but, also performed with an awareness of when less is sometimes more. Unfortunately, at times these songs do sag under their own weight; the opening track is almost 12 minutes of blastbeats and tremolo guitar passages, and while this frequently takes on a moving, powerful form, at times it lacks the dynamics to keep the song feeling vital and fresh. The empyrean heights these songs reach are magnificent, but at times it all feels just a bit much.

‘Reborn’ allows a few minutes of respite in the form of gorgeous, shimmering guitars layered to create a cascading, waterfall-like effect. The following track ‘No Way Out From Mankind’ is a highlight for me from the album, because it plays to Time Lurker‘s strengths while neatly sidestepping some of the genre’s pitfalls, and which the earlier songs did occasionally fall into. After a dark, eerie interlude on ‘Passage’, the album arrives at its closing song, ‘Whispering From Space’. The song takes its time to build, erupting into blastbeats and tortured howls. It strikes me as by far the album’s darkest and most menacing songs, and all the more memorable for its malicious splendour. It also does the best job of keeping things fresh, balancing unsettling dark ambient passages and minimalist, droning guitar chords against the typically grandiose sections of awe-inspiring black metal bombast.

It is intriguing that the album ends on such a gloomy note, given the frequently optimistic, majestic heights towards which the opening three songs aspire, but it’s a brave choice that left the album lingering in the corner of my mind far longer than I might have expected. Time Lurker‘s atmospheric grandiosity is compelling and at times deeply cathartic. Though the songs at times strain under the weight of the ambition and enormity of the project they are engaged in, it’s nonetheless a memorable and enjoyable atmospheric black metal album in a genre where that is becoming ever rarer.

Time Lurker’s self-titled album is available through Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions. It can be ordered through the label’s webstore on CD and vinyl.