Finnish death maulers Lantern add melody into crushing fury on sweltering new ‘II: Morphosis’

Not to discourage such activity outright, but one does not necessarily need a mind-altering substance to have a weird, beyond-this-realm journey with music. Often the right state of mind, environment, and sound can be enough to get into your system, and where you go from there is up to your imagination, morbid as it may be.

Finnish death maulers Lantern, on their second effort “II: Morphosis,” have drilled down into that territory. While their sound is savage and unforgiving on the surface (well, and way beneath the surface), there’s a lot more going on here. These songs can capture you and take you underground, through forbidden tunnels, and into the mouth of hell. Before you know it, you’re seeing odd visions and beasts in front of you, and their movements and intentions are fueled by what’s going on during these nine tracks. The band—vocalist Necrophilos, guitarists Crusiatus (lead) and St. Belial (rhythm), bassist J. Noisehunter, drummer J. Poussu—are killing it like a well-oiled machine, finally a five-piece unit that’s not just destroying you on stage, but also in the studio for this record. This is an album that’s raw but also has a greater sense of melody. It keeps intact the traditions of Finnish death, but it adds a deeper sense of horror that weighs down hard.

Opener “Black Miasma” rips apart, with guitars scorching, harsh growls pelting, and a deliberate pace stretching out the beating. The band later switches gears, with warmer waters rushing in, and the final moments going for the guts. “Sleeper of Hypnagog” is hypnotic and stirring, with the tempo suddenly speeding up and monstrous playing blasting your chest. The track continues to increase in aggression, while guitars soars, and a smudgy section turns mesmerizing and violent at the same time. “Hosting Yellow Fungi” is one of the shorter cuts, starting with chaotic guitars that create sparks, and then the melodies heads into a vortex. The vocals are nasty, while the band keeps firing, and then it’s into “Cleansing of the Air.” The cut is thrashy and vicious, as the vocals follow suit and get noticeably meaner. The track tears holes in the flesh, and then the pace changes toward blues-smeared doom. The final vocals are barked heavily, while the track rumbles to an end.

“Necrotic Epiphanies” has meaty riffs that start the bruising, but then things trickle into freezing terrain before everything lights up again. The tempo chugs hard, as the slicing melodies of this instrumental cut blast off into the night. “Transmigration” has filthy fury right off the bat, with gruff vocals and music that is hammering and fast. Guitars begin bleeding new tributaries, even shimmering at times, while grim growls and some last punches leaving you heaving. “Virgin Damnation” opens with a thick bassline before the assault spills over. The music often hangs in the air and stings, while the vocals feel like a rough poke in the chest. More doomy sentiments arrive, with the song simmering in blood and grime. The title track is an interesting, chilling interlude that pulls toward the finale “Lucid Endlessness” that immediately explodes. The song is a nice mix of vintage death metal and thrash, while some strange cosmic licks also are layered in, and hell erupts from there. The lead guitar playing gets into proggy territory, while the band hits a punishing groove in the final minutes, with Necrophilos howling, “To be reborn!” over and over before everything bleeds away.

Lantern have developed quite a bit from 2013’s “Below,” but they remain sharp and vicious all the same. “II: Morphosis” is a strong step forward for the band, a record that should fulfill the black hearts of anyone seeking the filthiest of death metal. The band may be making progress, but all that means is their agenda is darker and deadlier, and their teeth are a little sharper now.

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