Colorado-based underground metal label Dark Descent Records has been on a helluva run in recent years. Label boss Matt Calvert’s taste for all things sonically grotesque provided a cobwebbed haven for excellent albums from exciting extreme artists, with the likes of Thantifaxath, Emptiness, Swallowed, Lvcifyre and the almighty Horrendous harvesting plenty of critical acclaim in the process. Outside of those acts, another entity, a Finnish black/death band known and revered by those attuned to aural filth, Lantern, have also been building a strong discography and following as part of the Dark Descent stable.
Third album Dimensions’ thrashing yet atmospheric extremity is sourced from the poisonous well of the old school while remaining focused on the future. With lung-burning roars from vocalist Necrophilos and guided by the primary songwriting and conceptual vision of Cruciatus, Lantern’s latest studio effort also highlights a constant refinement—like the sharpening of a strident black trident which emerged unceremoniously from the Kuopio lakeland in Finland in 2007.
Aided by a robust production job, which doesn’t dispense with the cloaked, cloying aura previously heard on past Lantern recordings, the band’s conscientious approach to creating dynamic extreme metal by focusing on clever tempo changes and resounding atmospherics has never been as apparent as it is now. Because of its meticulous execution, there is no doubt that Dimensions is the most varied album of the Finnish band’s existence. Consequently, it’s also their best album to date—not to mention a worthy addition to Dark Descent’s much-admired roster of underground neck-wreckers.
Ahead of its June 24 release, we caught up with Cruciatus to discuss the writing of Dimensions, the band’s evolution over time, where Lantern sit in the Finnish scene… but also, and more specifically, since we are premiering a vicious yet ornate cut from the new album below, titled “Beings,” how he views this track in the context of this righteously punishing LP as a whole.
Decibel: As a recording duo, can you tell us about your collaboration and chemistry when it came to the writing of the new LP?
Cruciatus: Lantern being a duo is actually lingering, unfixed Metal Archives/internet info, as we have been a five-piece not only on stage but also in studio pretty much after our  debut Below was released. However, our bass player, J. Noisehunter, chose to revert to being a live musician for Dimensions, since he lives in Helsinki and the rest of us in Kuopio—a logistics decision. Anyway, I’ve kept carrying the torch regarding songwriting up to [now]; vocalist Necrophilos—the other half of the original duo—co-wrote a set of lyrics for the past 7-inch [Lost Paragraphs, 2019] and rhythm guitarist St. Belial composed one full song for Dimensions. But other than that, I’ve been the “collaboration and chemistry” myself throughout these years. [Laughs] The band seems to be happy with me providing the vision and acting as the prime motor, hence, no point trying to fix what is not broken. But St. Belial did a marvelous job writing a Lantern song, “Shrine of Revelation,” I’ll give him that.
Dimensions sounds sonically huge and instrumentally clear but still at the right side of grimy—the organic approach from 2017’s II: Morphosis remains, to my ears at least!
II: Morphosis consisted of a lot of old Lantern riffs, with two first demo songs re-recorded even. So, our sophomore album was definitely a more straightforward and thrashier one, as was the case with our first demo. Dimensions consists almost entirely of material written after 2015 or so, with the track “Cauldron of Souls” being the sole exception. It’s a late demo-era song that we wanted to re-record at some point, and this was as good [a time] as any.
Some ideas and riffs naturally lingered from the more distant past for this one as well, but the majority is from a more recent mindset. As for the sound: having tons of Sennheiser MD421s, a new Cascade Fathead ribbon mic, a few local audio engineer friends helping us out with drum and guitar setups, and Resonance Sound Studio mixing and mastering, once again, forms the key for the best Lantern production to date. We experimented with our guitar tones even further and think we finally managed to cement them after all these years. It’s a mixture of gear used from the first demo up to Below, amp- and pedal-wise, something that works on record and in live conditions. A new drum kit was also present for this session, something you can definitely hear.
So, lots of improvement gear-wise over the years. Like you said, the album sounds huge and clear, but the grime and the atmosphere are there, perhaps stronger than ever. Both the “newer” musicians and Resonance Sound have found their way deeper into the murk my creativity dwells in. It’s taken some time for us all to reach the perfect unison, which I think is where we are at now.
How would you say you’ve evolved from II: Morphosis to this year’s Dimensions.
Having played more actively with the full band and not working as a studio output, we’ve become a lot tighter for sure. That’s one thing that’s very different from the duo days; we have to practice each song part by part before we can start capturing any audio. The first three releases were much more improvised and I had more empty spaces in the compositions when starting the recordings. Now the ratio is way smaller, as expected.
Playing shows has also helped us make new songs more adaptable for live conditions, naturally. Some of the older songs have started to sound even better as a part of the set, while some early tunes just don’t work that well outside the original concept. We’ve also become more conscious of our sound quality, especially on stage; something that stayed a more random element for a long, long time, with gear and setups changing and all that. It also needs mentioning that Necrophilos has improved his vocal technique, with him and I being more active in the gritty doom band Grip of Death, where he sings with a cleaner yet still raspy voice. It’s brought a positive impact to Lantern as well.
As for us changing as people: we’re still pretty much the stubborn gits we’ve always been, with at least some of us having calmed down a bit throughout the years… which doesn’t show on gig trips and such, though! [Laughs] But still, I’d say not much has changed. The main thing is that I feel we haven’t turned into assholes and rock stars, at least that’s what I think. Still underground, even if our production keeps improving and more people know our name.
What lyrical concepts are at play here? And how do they tie into the artwork?
While our second album portrayed the process of dying, death and the afterlife, Dimensions is almost strictly about horror and abstract visions. [We play] around with some alternative meanings and hidden agendas regarding the lyrics—like is the case with us so often. The album begins from dimensions above, then moving towards dimensions within, beyond, and eventually down below, with our type of membranous and abstract death metal horror filling the milieu.
The front cover art was drawn by Kuopio-based artist/sculptor, Timo Kokko, a wild card for a metal cover, one could say. He did an excellent job with the cover, as it perfectly captures the bizarre and desolate atmosphere of the record and the essence of what awaits the listener as they enter the soundscape. It does reflect themes from “Strange Nebula” and “Shrine of Revelation,” but moreover, it serves as a gateway to the heart of the album, our musical realm. When the physical formats are out, you’ll also notice that the lyric booklet has been crafted by Heresie Graphics to accompany each song. The final package will come out beautiful, something I’m also very happy about.
Finnish death metal is highly esteemed across the world by those in the know. And your label, Dark Descent, has been a bastion of new quality Finnish DM for years now. Where do guys think you fit when it comes to both the classic bands from your country and also your Finnish peers/label-mates/and death metal acts in general around the world?
We’ve always done what we’ve wanted, not really aiming to be death metal or black metal, just providing the world with the sonic sabre-dance that is Lantern. Very often I feel we don’t really belong to any particular scene, which is fine by me. I’ve never been afraid to stand on my own, but luckily, we can do so in the great company of the fellow Finnish bands, the Dark Descent roster, and some of other staples we seem to interact with more often.
From the Finnish label-mates I’ve known the longest, I have to mention Corpsessed, Desolate Shrine and Lie in Ruins at least. Also the late Maveth, now reincarnated as Proscription, a band I’m involved in myself, as well. There are some subtle points of connection between us, but we all still stand out very well from each other. Then there are the foreign Dark Descent bands such as Thantifaxath, who’ve had a similar resonance to me at certain stages.
When talking about Finnish death metal, I suppose bands like Demigod, Belial and Adramelech share certain common ground. Demigod have always felt like a band who have shared a somehow similar touch to writing. Still, I honestly feel there aren’t too many bands that play the way we do, and I get this from other bands and fans a lot. So it’s more an observation and not me being smug—I hope! [Laughs] Such is the case with another Kuopio band, Demilich—[I] guess there’s just something in the tap water here that keeps things nice and twisted. Demilich and Lantern are very different from each other style-wise, but there’s a deeper connection on a level above mere tone, sound and riffs, if you ask me.
Your sound is rife with black metal and thrash influences, which help distinguish Lantern from plenty of underground bands at the minute. The tracks on your older material were very dynamic in balancing those genres with death metal, and you guys have always been clever enough to let song arrangements breathe for a better flow and more visceral impact. This is even more noticeable on the new album. Have you found any difficulties blending influences when writing? How hard is it to create seamless flow within each composition?
I just try to be in-the-now musically, keeping my canvas clean, trying to build from there. Keeping one’s mind as open as possible is fruitful, and I think we’ve managed to do that with Lantern when writing new music. As a sacrifice, I must admit I don’t listen to a lot of music nowadays, except when focusing on work or jogging. The last song [“Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions”] had one riff/lead part that stayed open for a few months, and I eventually jammed it as a semi-improvisation, you know, similarly like we used to do it back in the duo days. So farming riffs and ideas in this more open way causes some tediously hard arranging work, which can prove to be tricky at times. Having the guts to leave good ideas that just don’t work well enough is also vital—hopefully I’ve been able to practice what I preach in this case! [Laughs]
Outside musical influences, I’m mainly driven by glimpses from my inner realm intertwined with my fondness of the more abstract, and sometimes even Giallo-style horror. Some songs from II: Morphosis had stronger esoteric influences, even purely anatomical ones—“Hosting Yellow Fungi”. With Dimensions, things are pretty much about portraying the different planes, proportions, and well, dimensions the song titles and lyrics link to, with strong Lovecraftian vibes about. “Cauldron of Souls” was also influenced by the works of Hermann Hesse, my all-time favorite author. Those who know can probably connect the dots!
We are showcasing “Beings” today, one of the darkest and heaviest tracks on the new album. Can you tell us about the creation of this particular song and what you were trying to achieve with it? But also, how do you view it in comparison to the other tracks on the album—a song like “Cauldron of Souls” being much more anthemic in a traditional sense—and in the context of the album as a whole?
Like I said, the album descends from the outer reach closer towards earthly and various other regions, with “Beings” as its second chapter. It’s an almost Color Out of Space-esque piece of horror put to music, with bizarrely long riffs for the A part and an oppressing atmosphere I feel is very fitting to the lyrics. The ending indicates the song is strongly linked to the interlude-type track “Portraits” that follows next on the album.
But back to “Beings:” the intention was to capture glimpses of horrendous beings one can’t describe, so we’ve left a lot for the listeners’ imagination. Style-wise, I feel the song kind of nears the Subterranean Effulgence EP approach at times—referring to “Slumbering Dying Dreams”—but of course, no intentional rehash; just the way things turned out. “Cauldron of Souls,” indeed, is a more anthemic piece and stands out also being the single pre-2010 composition on Dimensions, but I think each song on the album, and also [each song] in the whole Lantern catalog, has ended up standing out from one another very firmly. This can be seen as a blessing or a curse. Which it is… we’ll leave that for the listener to decide.
Preorder Dimensions on LP and CD direct from Dark Descent right here.