Thursday, March 3, 2011

LIK - The Second Wind (2011)

LIK had been temporarily shelved after three albums, all of which were good, but peaking early on the 2003 debut Må Ljuset Aldrig Nå Oss Mer. However, as the title to this new full-length implies, some further inspiration has been drawn out of the project's uncanny mix of black metal and dark, rustic rock, and I'm once again impressed with the unusual aesthetics present here. Most of the riffs are the sort you'd find in traditional folk/black metal or Gothic/punk rock, but mixed with such an organic appeal that they glide lovingly beneath the dour, low-pitch of the vocals, and The Second Wind is at once both festive and unforgiving in its bleak disposition.

"The Other Realm" opens with eerie grace, creating an impression of black vines slowly climbing and constricting the limbs and necks of the living, dragging them into some depressive abyss. I'm not sure if the breaks are all that effective, but they lead into the great, bright bridge riffing, and ultimately this track offers much hope for the remainder of the album, hope which is capitalized on by the raucous, rugged rocking of "Death Breeder" and the cautionary tread of "Ed Anger", with its percussive, repeated backing vocal creating a ritual hypnosis through the verse. Some of the cuts here play out like a blackened Neil Young ("A Filthy Ride"), while others are far more morose, subdued and creepily beautiful ("Kallad til bargtang", "Insjunken"). "The Second Wind" itself closes out the proceedings with some ringing melodies, a black/grunge instrumental like something the Screaming Trees would have written in their darkest hour.

The mix of the album has just enough low-fidelity to capture its evocative, backroads drama without gauging inaccessibility, and it's probably about as 'pro' as LIK has gotten so far, but should in no way turn off fans of the prior records. This is simple composition. Simple listening. But it implies such a greater potential, maudlin and dreamlike but sharp-edged like a beartrap or rusted hunting knife being stabbed into your thoughts. Unlike a lot of the band's peers, there's nothing necessarily 'post rock' or 'shoegazer' about this album, it's far too down to Earth, the stuff of drunken, lonely exasperation after spilling out from an empty bar into the cold, measured revenge hanging by the margin of civilization. It's a fluid and thorny return to form, and I enjoyed it nearly as much as the debut album.

Verdict: Win [8/10]

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