The past echoes into the future—structures of sound filter through modern wavelengths and melodies that seem at once familiar and unusual bloom in the darkness. Lamp of Murmuur passes his torch through the memories of seasons long over in order to bring about a new wave of underground, raw black metal which utilises the constructs of post-punk and goth to create a fresh take on a genre which has been evolving for years. M, the sole member of the project, is notoriously anonymous and prefers to let his music speak for itself. On his latest album, the voice used is one of sensuality, eroticism, narcissism, and pain. The themes on display are high concept and are cloaked in icy guitars, rich synths and howling screams.

Here, M wants to present an elevated approach to sexual subjects in a way that is mature and informed; while Submission And Slavery is, at face value an excellent black metal album, it is also a work that delves into heavy topics. Lyrical references are difficult to infer due to the fact that the words are unpublished and hard to decipher. As such, we only have what has been offered publicly to gather meaning from, and that information is very little. M is a mysterious character: with their visage often obscured by corpse paint and high contrast black and white photography, the darkness becomes the master and the light that is allowed to peek through is hazy. The starkness of the promotional pictures conjure feelings of alienation and the cover art of the album itself sets it apart from almost every other release in the underground. The homage to The Sisters Of Mercy’s Floodland is deliberate and makes it clear how much inspiration is taken from the sounds of the 80s. Other influences such as The Cure and Fields Of The Nephilim are represented in jangly guitar tones, choral synths or deep clean vocal lines, as is second wave black metal in the swirling maelstrom of noise that Lamp of Murmuur creates with layered guitars and frenetic drumming.

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Submission And Slavery follows an approach first given full attention on 2020s Heir Of Ecliptical Romanticism and its title track, in that it embraces the gothic aspects of Lamp Of Murmuur’s sound and incorporates them more robustly into the palette of the band. Those flourishes are key to how rich this new album feels as it explores more thoroughly the personal interests of M and gives Lamp Of Murmuur a feeling of renewed energy. This revival is felt keenly in the joyous solo of “Deformed Erotic Visage,” which radiates with unbridled spirit and allows the smallest glimpse of the person behind the mask to shine through. It is in the cloaking of the self that Lamp Of Murmuur has found their place. The hype generated by not telling anyone who you are goes a long way toward providing free advertising, but in the case of this project, that hype is very much justified.

“Reduced to Submission and Slavery” opens the album and finds its groove almost immediately — drums signal the charge and as guitars ramp up in their ferocity the song soon submits to lighter inflections to build the otherworldly atmosphere. The harsher elements of M’s voice and the rage that is buried within it pulses throughout the song as it climbs towards unexpected moments and contrasting styles. Post-punk trademarks permeate the synthesised keys as the vocals slink through bellows, shrieks, and even a single high-pitched clean that is both surprising and extremely welcome. These small shifts in sound give Lamp Of Murmuur that slight edge as the album explores the depths of depravity of the human soul. The tempo changes and rough corners express narratives and viewpoints that are known only to the creator and interpreted through harmonics, bombastic riffing, screams, and atmospheric dungeon synth interludes, while listeners are given the opportunity to sink into the waters of the mind and float on its sensory impulses.

The short and eerie “Thine Be The Cavalry” supports the album in its instrumental tones by focusing on claustrophobic ambience and giving over the space to a sparser sound. This is by no means a moment to relax, though, as the track is filled with off-kilter intonation and reflects only darkness in its cadence before the dynamism of “Dominatrix’s Call” pulls you back to some semblance of reality. The post-punk references are rife in this central song: the initial moments feature strident guitars that would find a home in any Joy Division track as M's deathly voice clashes with their beauty. The track switches between elegant guitars and bleak passages with organic ease, rather than jarring the senses, and even when the song finds itself in complete darkness, there is a sense of cohesion that runs through it all. When the baritone clean vocals take hold over the screams, the song is transformed (as was “Heir Of Ecliptical Romanticism” on Lamp of Murmuur’s previous album) as the two elements push for control and entwine each other in pain.

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The rhythms of Submission And Slavery are absurdly catchy as riffs are written to be commanding and cyclic, and as we move to the subliminal instrumental finale of “Lustgate Toward Your Cruel Dominions” (not counting the excellent and faithful cover of Christian Death’s “Evening Falls”), the album basks in the devilish melodies of “Deformed Erotic Visage” while it takes us on a journey of enlightenment. The understanding of the self is something that we as humans strive for and it seems as though Lamp Of Murmuur is also searching for knowledge, using his music as a vessel for those thoughts and feelings. Of course, this is all open to personal interpretation and as the song progresses in erratic guitars and small repetitive patterns—much of M’s work is improvised and recorded as is—there is a sense of hypnotic sequencing to be heard here, burrowing into the mind and opening it up for more sensitive emotions.

“Deformed Erotic Visage” melds all of Lamp of Murmuur’s greatest influences into one track as the raw black metal elements feed into gothic rock, never more clearly than in the change of pace around the 6:30 mark as the song shifts into a different gear altogether. The guitars become abundantly clear and the solo that is invoked here is pure ecstasy, the result of an artist trusting their intuition and faith in their own process. The elation can be tied back to a central theme of the album: that with great suffering, great beauty can also be found. Some find their zenith in pain as they are being destroyed by love that holds no meaning, despite the physical actions being there. This is an overwhelming cascade of emotions to handle, but M is true to themselves in these moments. As the truth flickers in the luminescent glow of honesty, Lamp Of Murmuur becomes vulnerable and is all the more intriguing for it.

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Submission and Slavery released independently on September 16th and can be found on the band's Bandcamp page.