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Album art for self-titled debut by Time Lurker.

We all have fears — things, people, even ideas that send shivers down our spines and have our hearts hammering in our chests. And right now, I’m afraid that you and many others might miss one of the best atmospheric black metal albums of the year. The French one-man band known as Time Lurker has combined two previous EPs into a single formidable offering, and although all the elements that comprise it are familiar and known to the likes of Man, its minute-to-minute listening experience is truly not of this world. Oozing existential dread and cosmic horror, “Time Lurker” is well worth your time.

“Time Lurker” threatens to suffocate you under undulating waves of cold, drowning atmosphere.

Like many fears, this fear of mine may be completely unfounded. After all, both dabblers and hardcore fanatics of atmospheric black metal will find “Time Lurker” worthy of supplication. Long passages of barraging blast beats and murky guitars create a tense, choking pressure. Writhing like some vaguely serpentine monstrosity, “Time Lurker” threatens to suffocate you under undulating waves of cold, drowning atmosphere. Even the instrumental tracks, which I’m generally not a fan of, lend themselves to prolonging your torment, plunging your head back beneath the surface so you can’t catch a breath.

Time Lurker's Mick, backdropped against the cosmic majesty of space.

If what I’ve relayed so far about “Time Lurker” seems a bit aggressive for atmospheric black metal, that’s because it is. Its sense of sonic dread doesn’t sulk in the background — it lunges at you, teeth bared. Once you’re in the belly of beastly tracks like the 11-minute Rupture, you’ll find there’s wiggle room for multiple passages that build and build for minutes at a time, with the instrumentation growing more and more rabid until it fissures, hurling you into a horrid vortex of misery. I’ll go so far as to say this creature is carried by the drums, which Mick plays with an adeptness seemingly in opposition to what you’d expect from the genre. You’ll hear the typical blast-beating frenzy, only it’s accented with tasteful offbeat ride-bell work that morphs seamlessly into 32nd-note double bass patterns then back again, weaved together by frenetic fills. Mick uses many different beats to create texture and variation. Well-thought snare placements, either on the upbeat combined with double bass or in syncopated post-rock style, play with dynamics, elevating already-engaging parts into sublime passages that reward careful listeners.

Multiple guest vocalists from other local Strasbourg/Paris bands like Paramnesia, Rance, and End of Mankind give voice to form a many-headed hydra. On Ethereal Hands they sound reminiscent of Mortichnia — distant, despairing howls from some decrepit cellar — while they roar with primal retribution on Judgment. At times, the vocals are mixed far too low for my liking — and that’s only because they’re such a potent contribution toward the overall sense of strangling hopelessness that obliterates every second of “Time Lurker.”

Listeners perking their ears up for the latest harsh soundscapes to lose themselves in might not be expecting atmospheric black metal of Time Lurker’s flavor. The somber melodies of fellow countrymen Au Champs des Morts may seem a more enticing release. But don’t you dare dismiss the tasteful, gripping drumming style, the frequent pace changes, or exciting structural variety on “Time Lurker.” I think it’s to Mick’s credit for taking such risks in a time where the genre’s identity has never been stronger, and as such, “Time Lurker” is a standout offering worthy of the year’s best releases, atmospheric black metal or not.

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Eric Seal Eric Seal is the head writer at He used to think 'Hellbilly Deluxe’ was a scary album, but he's proud to say he listens to much scarier music now.