Laster- Andermans Mijne (Album Review)

Oct. 11, 2023


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Over the past decade, Laster has become one of my favorite bands within the black metal and avant-garde space.  The Dutch trio started off on a more traditional path, with their first demo Wijsgeer & Narreman opting for sprawling atmospheric black metal that stuck close to its inspirations.  But by the group’s debut full length De verste verte is hier in 2014, it was evident that Laster was already starting to experiment, as the title track took on a looser post punk and shoegaze leaning direction alongside the more aggressive black metal.  From that point on, each of the group’s albums has explored a wide range of musical styles with a more playful and fluid approach while keeping the harshness of black metal front and center.  2019’s Het wassen oog felt like the culmination of this original direction, with unexpected diversions into jazzier and strange instrumental territory while the vocals split time between ear piercing shrieks and quirkier singing.  That album also served as the end of a trilogy of sorts, which you can see when looking at the artwork for all three.  Four years on from Het wassen oog and Laster has once again transformed with Andermans Mijne, shedding their black metal vocals entirely and hopping across even more styles.  It’s a wild ride that may still be a bit too out there for some people, but if you can appreciate the more avant-garde flourishes, you’ll find Laster has once again delivered something truly stunning.

Usually, I’d dive into the instrumentation first, but with Andermans Mijne I think it make sense to talk about the vocals first as it’s one of the biggest shifts in the band’s music.  Early on in Laster’s career things fell entirely on the abrasive side of the spectrum, with a range of ear-piercing shrieks and screams towering over the recording.  The last full length introduced more singing and established a balance between the quirkier, alien tones of the cleaner ranges and the harsh ones.  There are still some slight hints of distorted or harsher vocal work on a few of the songs, but nothing like it was before.  “Afgelopen tijd” and “Doodgeboren” bring in some harsher moments, with the latter going for shouted gang vocals early on, but they’re still very different in pitch compared to anything else in the band’s discography.  The title track starts things off and gives listeners a good idea of what to expect in this regard, as the harmonized singing seems to weave its way in and out of the layers of instrumentation and has a bit more of a post punk feel but it’s much weirder.  Sometimes you’ll get some deeper singing that has more of a gothic rock meets mainstream era Killing Joke, but then it’ll shift into some spoken word or shouted passages where it sounds like the vocalist is having a break down.  This is where Andermans Mijne might be a bit too much for some tastes, as it’ll draw you in with warm and inviting pitches and then suddenly shift into the more schizophrenic and alien sounding.  But it’s safe to say if you’ve enjoyed where bands like Dødheimsgard or Arcturus went with their vocals on their more recent efforts, Laster will scratch a similar itch.

One of the areas that Laster continues to excel in is their ability to create a cohesive listening experience despite taking a kitchen sink approach to songwriting.  The material heads all over the map from one song to the next, yet everything flows seamlessly.  The trio also hasn’t fully abandoned black metal entirely like some of the others that have gone into a more progressive or avant-garde directions, as songs like “Vorm Alleen” and “Onzichtbare muur” still use a lot of that jagged, aggressive riffing style along with blast beats but twist them into something that sounds different overall.  For every dip into the aggressive and darker, there are just as many jumps into airier instrumentation that has a more playful and fun style to it.  It’s a lot to take in at first listen, but even early on there are specific sections that stick with you and encourage you to explore further.  “Poëtische waarheid” and “Afgelopen tijd” both have sections of brighter melodies that remind me of Killing Joke circa Night Time or Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, with the former even settling into a groove that has more of a jazz fusion vibe.  “Wachtmuziek” is also appropriately titled, as it translates to “Hold Music”, and after the sound of a dial tone you get Laster’s more alien and hypnotic take on call center hold or elevator music.  Other sections channel quite a bit of Voivod, though run through black metal roots versus thrash.  It really says something that even at their harshest, this band still makes you want to dance or tap your foot to the rhythms, and that fluidity and fun factor separates them from so many other progressive leaning bands out there in the metal space.  There really isn’t a bad or boring moment from start to finish, though I’ve found myself gravitating back to “Poëtische waarheid”, “Afgelopen tijd” and “Doodgeboren” the most on repeat listens.  The production also is worth mentioning, as it emphasizes the deeper grooves of the bass while still giving enough space to the rest of the instrumentals to shine.

Laster’s previous album was one of my favorites of the year and found them experimenting in new and exciting ways, but I found myself wondering where they’d go from there and if they could capture that same uniqueness.  They’ve done just that and arguably topped my already high expectations with an album that’s quirky and fun while still having enough aggressive and jagged edges to intrigue the metal crowd.  Sometimes post punk, sometimes goth, and other times black metal (with everything in between), Laster has delivered an amazing album and shown that they’re far from done when it comes to experimentation.  Andermans Mijne is available from Prophecy Productions.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg