2017 may just be getting started, but we’ve already heard some albums that are potential end of the year contenders and are sure to still be talked about eleven months from now. One of those is ‘Ons vrije fatum’, the sophomore effort from Dutch black metal band Laster. The group came to my attention back in 2013 with their demo ‘Wijsgeer & Narreman’, which offered up sprawling, bleak instrumentation that pulled from equal parts Burzum style black metal and that of the depressive variety. A year later ‘De verste verte is hier’ took those ideas to an entirely new level, reaching truly stunning levels of atmosphere that reached truly epic proportions. The album ended with a surprise shift into shoegaze and post punk, hinting at more experimentation to come.
‘Ons vrije fatum’ takes the other genre influences of that last song and runs with them into exciting new directions. There’s plenty to Laster’s sound that still incorporates the harsher and atmospheric black metal elements, but what’s so exciting about this record is how fluid and unpredictable it is. For a group that now dubs their material “obscure dance music”, there’s a fluid/airier feel to the instrumentation, with gloomy post punk/shoegaze style melodies and somber clean vocals taking the spotlight on multiple occasions. With how entranced I found myself by this latest effort, I decided to send out some interview questions to learn more about ‘Ons vrije fatum’. The answers I got back are as unpredictable as the music itself, and it includes the longest list of influences I’ve ever seen a band list! If you have yet to dive into Laster’s seductive yet abrasive album, it’s worth giving your attention.
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, as well as providing me with a very intriguing and diverse album to listen to. ‘Ons vrije fatum’ was just released this month, but when did writing for it begin? Where does it fit time wise with the song you wrote for the split with Wederganger?
Laster: We take time. You take time. We all take time. But where does it fit?! Right? Well, the first idea’s for ‘Ons’ showed up in early 2015. We just didn’t know it at the time. The earliest versions of Vederlicht verraad – our track on the Wederganger/ Laster split – had a few moments that eventually became part of ‘Ons’. At that time we were already rehearsing what would become Bitterzoet, sort of, kinda, slightly. Let’s just suppose we started those two works loosely, simultaneously.
TO: You’ve dubbed your music “obscure dance music”, which I find quite appropriate considering that I found the fluidity and airiness of the instrumentals to be reminiscent of dancing. What are some of the challenges of writing in this manner, and how do these free flowing ideas come together to form the final versions of their respective songs?
Laster: Thank you! You’re the first to explicitly say so. Most people don’t seem to feel that way.
When writing music we work in several layers, at different moments. Most of our inspiration – or drive, so to say – comes from our everyday lives. It’s a reaction to the mundane in combination with whatever media we choose to devour – or which chooses to devour us. We’re never quite sure. Anyway, we take this drive with us to our little den, where the three of us try to make a song out of it. We record this and carry that recording with us for a while; all thanks to our magical, portable music devices. By doing so we’re able to reflect on our work while cycling from A to B, sitting in an overcrowded train wagon, doing laundry, having a stroll through town, etc.
It doesn’t sound very heroic, because it isn’t, but it does make us return to the den with fresh ideas for the songs development. From there on we just iterate, iterate and iterate until everything sort of “clicks”.
TO: I like how the artwork for ‘De verste verte is hier’ and ‘Ons vrije fatum’ tie together. On the former you have a single actor, with darker color tones emphasized, while the latter has a duo and warmer, uplifting colors. Can you expand on how the artwork for the two albums fit together and how they tie into their lyrical themes?
Laster: Thank you! The first three tracks on our debut (‘De verste verte is hier’) revolve around the individual, where the last song introduces a theme about the bonding of one with others. We continued this theme both visually, lyrically and sound wise in ‘Ons’.
TO: Black metal still forms the more abrasive side of your instrumentation, but you’ve pushed far beyond the traditional boundaries of the genre and incorporated elements that recall post punk and shoegaze to my ears. What have been some of your prominent musical influences as you’ve progressed towards this direction? Are there any literary or film influences that helped to shape the material?
Laster: People ask this question very often, yet we’re always struggling to find an honest and complete answer. Therefore, we’ve decided to make a list of the artists – and their efforts – that influenced us during – or leading up to – the process of ‘Ons’.
It may or may not be found on the album, but that’s not really the point of influences, right?
Jesu’s Heart Ache, self-titled, Silver, Conqueror and Everyday I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s La danza de la realidad and The Holy Mountain. Virus’s The Agent That Shapes the Desert, Oblivion Clock, The Black Flux and Carheart. Manes’s Vilosophe, How the World Came to an End and Be All End All. Godflesh’s Hymns and Us and Them. Albert Camus’s L’estrange. Charles Bukowski‘s Post Office. David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Eraserhead, Inland Empire and Mulholland Drive. Ulver’s Teachings in Silence, Blood Inside, Bergtatt and Metamorphosis. Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamourama. Franz Kafka’s Der Verschollene. Francis Alÿs’s Cuentos patrióticos and Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing. Friedrich Nietzsche’s Der fröhliche wissenschaft. Future Islands’s Singles. Everything Unlimited’s The Beginner’s Guide. Harold Schweizer’s On Waiting. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Diapsiquir’s A.N.T.I. Bohren & der Club of Gore’s Sunset Mission, Midnight Radio, Dolores. Igorrr’s Nostril and Hallelujah. Ferdinand Bordewijk’s Blokken. Lugubrum’s De vette cuecken and Albino de Congo. Bas Jan Ader’s Fall 2 and Broken Fall. Fluisteraars’s Luwte. Orchid’s Le desordre c’est moi, Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow! and self-titled. Jacob Israel de Haan’s Pathologieën. Lunar Aurora’s A Haudiga Fluag. Heirs’s Hunter. Miles Davis’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud. Crywank’s Tomorrow Is Nearly Yesterday And Everyday Is Stupid. Sun Kil Moon’s Among the Leaves and Benji. Terzij de Horde’s live performances. Henry Miller’s Quiet Days In Clichy. Paul van Tongeren’s Leven Is Een Kunst. Brutus’s 7”s and their collaboration with The Guru Guru. The Lumes’s Lust. Hiromi Uehara: The Trio Project’s live performances. Dälek’s Gutter Tactics, From Filthy Tongue Of Gods And Griots and Absence. The Pine’s Days Slipping By. Dr. Duval’s 7”s. Lengsel’s Solance and The Kiss – The Hope. James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. Spinoza’s Ethica. Spinvis’s self-titled and Dagen van gras, dagen van stro. Nefast’s live performances. Slint’s Spiderland. Misere Luminis’s self-titled. Ved Buens Ende’s Written in Waters. An Autumn for Crippled Children’s Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love. Beastmilk’s Use Your Deluge and Climax. Slowdive’s Souvlaki. Paysage d’Hiver’s self-titled and Kristall & Isa. City of Caterpillar’s self-titled. Johan van Hattum. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. Ascetic:’s Self Initiation. Berlinde de Bruyckere’s Kreupelhout, Marthe and Into One –Another II,To P.P.P., 2010-2011. François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim. Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Mgła’s Exercises in Futility. My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Peste Noire’s self-titled and La Sanie Des Siècles – Panégyrique De La Dégénérescence. Talk Talk’s greatest hits. The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble’s Here Be Dragons and Mutations. Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Amesoeurs’s Ruines Humaines. Deafheaven’s Sunbather. Klage’s Die Weihe Des Eises and Dystopias Wiege. Herman Brusselman’s Mijn haar is lang. Gilles Deleuze’s Rhizome. Turia’s Dor. Alcest’s Souvenirs D’Un Autre Monde. The XX’s xx. J.G. Ballard’s Crash. Red wine. Desperados, but not the movie with Antonio Banderas.
We might have forgotten a few.
TO: The vocals have branched out just as much as the instrumentation, as there are far more clean ranges than ever before. With all three members contributing vocals, how have your approaches towards vocals evolved from the demo days until this current point?
Laster: Haha. You can’t tell a broader story just by shrieking like a maniac through the entire record.
You know that story about a boy who’s yelling “WOLF!” all the time?
TO: Jan Driessen was brought in to contribute saxophone to the song Helemaal naar huis, and this section reminded me of being in a dark jazz club lounge or a similar environment. How did this collaboration with Driessen come about, and did you give him any particular guidelines/ideas for this part?
Laster: We knew Driessen – and we knew he’s got chops. We invited him over, gave him a mic and he blew us away. Instant noire; right then, right there.
TO: The visuals I’ve seen of your live performances are very striking. Are there plans to incorporate more visual elements into the live show, perhaps through videos or even some sort of dance interpretations?
Laster: For now it’s just us, making silly moves and trying to create the right atmosphere. We could bring professional dancers, but we’d rather see the audience shake a leg or two or do a quadruple backflip. We do see some loose hips once in a while, but most of the time it’s just a lot of nodding with fists in the air.
TO: You have a show in Antwerp near the end of January, what else do you have planned on the live front in 2017? Are there plans to tour across more of Europe?
Laster: We’d love to. Bring us a booker and we’ll bring you shows.
TO: Metal bands from the Netherlands tend bands that are pushing traditional genre boundaries, whether it’s your material or a group like Urfaust. What are some other groups from your country worth paying attention to that we might not be familiar with yet?
Laster: Terzij de Horde. The Lumes. Turia. ZZ en de Maskers.
TO: With the album now out, what will you be turning your attention to next?
Laster: We’ve nearly finished an upcoming EP.
During ‘Ons’ we briefly touched upon an atmosphere that deserves a bit more attention on it’s own.
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about ‘Ons vrije fatum’ or Laster?
Laster: Utrecht wacht, bij nacht.