Light Dweller Construct a “Lucid Offering” of Thoughtful Death Metal (Review + Interview)
Look, it's great when a bass guitar sounds like it's funneling insecticide into an ear canal, a riff recalls a motorcycle running through a trash compactor, and a vocalist shares more qualities with an elk's mating call than a human, but some of the most rewarding death metal albums come courtesy of bands who challenge themselves technically and, in a manner of speaking, spiritually. This is to say, sonic fortitude only improves with emotional cognition, a fact Light Dweller make clear on their fourth album Lucid Offering On it, they dissect their inner demons in much the same manner as they do their fretboards. You can listen to the entire record below along and read an in-depth conversation with the artist.
Light Dweller's newest record has the necessary self-awareness to be both flattening and humanistic. As a new interview with the one-man atmospheric death/black metal band reveals below, Lucid Offering is about the confrontation between the self and one's own instability. It details a protagonist that plunges deeper into a downward spiral under the assumption that a fiend is possessing them, only to realize that it's their negative character traits causing their self-harm. It's an insular journey that benefits from suffocating compositions. Lucid Offering's tracks are dense rather than expansive, with Light Dweller's developments appearing in the details rather than being grandiose sweeping improvements. This works to express the album's main conflict, one that is inherently personal. A grander sound would drive a wedge between the songs and the themes, which wouldn't ruin the album, but it could give rise to narrative dissonance. Instead, the compact production and knotty riffs imply Lucid Offering's twist; it doesn’t sound like a conversation between two parties because it isn't. It's a character succumbing to their own delusions and feeding off of their negative tendencies to their own detriment. As such, there's plenty of friction in the tracks, as if the protagonist's mind is dueling against itself. It links Light Dweller's compositional aspirations to Lucid Offering's concept in a way that optimizes both.
That means there are moments of frustration and clairvoyance that take the form of a character arc. The tensions mount from "Succumb" all the way to "Conjurer of Light," reaching the climax on "Incantation Upon a Withered Entity." The chugging riff runs out of step from the drums, showing the disharmony between the self and the possessor. It foreshadows the eventual realization on the penultimate track "Kaleidoscope of Thorns," wherein the protagonist finally recognizes that their demon is of their own design, a figure that they created as a mask for their own self-defeating habits. Light Dweller capture this internal conflict in arduous breakdowns before ending the track on the album’s lightest, yet most morose, note. It's one of the few moments when Light Dweller blatantly pays homage to their eclectic interests with electronic beats and a piano. These instruments mark the only time when the protagonist openly recognizes their faults as their own. A forlong guitar introduces the aptly titled "Spiritual Eclipse," wherein the protagonist must reckon with how they dragged themselves down. It's a sobering track, a fitting closer to both Lucid Offering and its story. It reflects upon how one can corrode themselves through illusions, not by overpowering the listener but by offering a melodic interpretation on the record’s earlier sounds.
Lucid Offering also broadcasts Light Dweller's strengths as a guitarist. As they state in the interview below, they are confident in their ear for countermelodies and maintaining an internal balance between opulence and oppressiveness. Lucid Offering's riffs are the highlight, with some standouts occurring in the latter half of "Succumb" and the title track. Thankfully, Light Dweller doles them out in measured portions rather than pouring them down your throat in a gluttonous manner akin to drinking raw olive oil. That being said, Lucid Offering is much more noteworthy for the vocal performance. The growls never dominate the mixing and are closer to a ghastly presence. They're hefty and confident yet never overbearing. There are some instances where their bellows are certifiably the best part of a track, such as on "Lucid Offering," which is saying something because that song contains some of the most impressive instrumental passages on Lucid Offering. Fortunately, it's not a competition so much as it is a composition. It's a balance, much like the entire album, of moving pieces and escalation.
Unraveling Lucid Offering is no easy feat, but it doesn’t attempt to be. It stares at itself to study its own downfall. Such confrontation of the self can never be handled lightly, and Light Dweller don't pull any punches in that regard.
Keep reading as the act elaborates on their creative process, their strides as a guitarist, and more in the interview below. Their insight is pivotal to absorbing Lucid Offering’s themes, though it’s palpable and poignant enough to stand on its own. Lucid Offering is streaming in full below ahead of its release date. Listen to the album and read an interview with Light Dweller.
Given that this new album Lucid Offering was written over the course of last year, and that Hominal was written before the pandemic, how did your writing philosophy differ between the two?
The approach in the most practical sense of how I write music did not change, but my mindset did when writing both albums. I had quite the opposite experience as most people did with the pandemic, I will say. Before the pandemic, when I wrote Hominal and the prior releases, I was living in this super grungy house with a bunch of dudes and paid very cheap rent. I worked only part time to cover the minimal bills that I had. Therefore, I had a lot of free time which allowed me to make music my main priority. Come late 2020 during the midst of the pandemic, I was working two jobs and soon moved out of this house. I had much less time in my day to day life to write Lucid Offering which instilled in my mind that there was no imaginary deadline that I had to uphold myself to. The mindset change at this point was basically: it’ll be done when it’s done.
You provided live vocals for your friend's group Dessiderium after writing Lucid Offering, but before recording it. How did performing with a different act affect your vocal styles on the new album?
It was really great how it worked out that way. When I wrote and recorded all of the previous Light Dweller albums, as well as played in a previous band with Alex, the founder of Dessiderium, I was actually still more or less learning how to do vocals. Or at least some of my techniques definitely needed improvement. Which in the past was basically to just scream or growl as loud as I could, because I thought that was how you got the best tone with your voice. You can get results that way, I guess, but I lacked tonal control and would get fatigued quickly. I once damaged my throat quite badly at a show doing this. I couldn't speak for nearly a week and my uvula was incredibly swollen, hardened, and shaped like a cat’s claw. It was pretty gross. I have since wanted to change my approach with vocals for the next album, and jamming with Dessiderium before recording Lucid Offering was immensely helpful for that.
Lucid Offering is a lot to digest in terms of how much is happening sonically every second, yet it never feels overwhelming. How do you think you find that sweet spot between challenging yet legible music?
I'm not 100% sure, but I think it has to do with not being a "shredder" of a guitarist. I've always been more of a rhythm guitarist; a riff maker, rather than a soloist. So, I think I have a natural ear for when a riff is overkill or has the right amount of technicality. Additionally, while some of my guitar parts are hard to play, I believe most of the technical elements come from the fact that there are many countermelodies throughout the songs. A technique I first learned about listening to Anata back in 2006. Artificial Brain later came along and expanded my understanding of countermelodies and the creative possibilities they allow.
How did Lucid Offering’s title and Adam Burke’s brutal (yet very good) art tie into the album’s themes?
The theme of the album is about living one’s life with the assumption of being possessed by, and forfeiting one’s own sovereignty to a demonic entity, only to learn in the end that your demon is only your own neuroticism and self sabotage. The lyrics alternate between a narration, the main character’s POV, and the perceived entity’s POV. The main character, in this context, is an offering to the demon (himself), and is bright and lucid, because he thinks what he is doing is noble. As for Adam Burke, I follow him on Instagram. He posted this picture back in May or June of 2021, stating it was available for license. Immediately I saw a connection, visually, between this painting and the conceptual theme for Lucid Offering, so I knew I had to send him a DM right away. I am very satisfied that the imagery fits the theme so well, and that this isn’t just some cool painting that I bought where I had to force the association to the album’s concept.
You describe your music as ‘sometimes dissonant and sometimes atmospheric’ yet to my ears they’re one and the same on Lucid Offering. Was your intention to meld the two together into one cohesive mood on this album?
That description is mostly derivative of my musical influences. I have always liked heavy music; death metal and its many subgenres, as well as melodic music; atmospheric black metal, post-rock, orchestra, etc. Blending the two together has been the goal since the beginning. With each release so far, the ratio between heavy (or as I have expressed previously dissonant) and atmospheric has always been different. Of the previous three albums, Hominal had the most heavy parts, Apparition by far had the most atmospheric parts, to the point where some question if it even sounds like a Light Dweller record, and Lucid Offering, I think anyway, has the best ratio: mostly heavy, with a moderate amount of atmosphere here and there.
What is one aspect of Lucid Offering that you really want to impart onto listeners more than anything else?
Probably the vocals, as they are, in my opinion, the biggest improvement from my previous albums. Historically, I have always been much more of a guitarist than a vocalist, so there will be greater leaps of improvement with my voice over any other aspect.
“Kaleidoscope of Thorns” talks about wounds amounting from crushing failures and has the most dismal mood on the album. How does the idea of failure - and failure in search of purpose - play into that track?
Tracing back to the concept of the album for reference, its theme loosely runs in chronological order with the track list, from start to finish as a story. ‘Kaleidoscope of Thorns', being the second to last track on the album, is approaching the conclusion of the album’s story. This song is about the main character’s regret-filled and wasted life, essentially. A realization of the pain and misery he’s endured, but has yet to achieve full awareness of his self sabotage.
Returning to “Kaleidoscope of Thorns”, the piano and electronic beats right before the outro are melancholic unlike anything else on Lucid Offering. Where did the idea for this sudden lightness come from, given that the rest of the album is unrelenting? Furthermore, was this bridge a way to set the stage for “Spiritual Eclipse” as the emotional conclusion?
I wanted to end the song on a weird and unpredictable note, especially given that this might be the heaviest track on the album. I just liked the idea of a polarizing start and ending to a song. Regarding the second question, it wasn’t intentionally written to be a segue into the final song, but once writing for the whole album was done and I was able to piece the album together as a whole, it only made sense to place this song where it is in the album. As for the piano and techno sounding high hat, I have been wanting to experiment with different kinds of sounds. There’s a few other parts of the album that have some unconventional sounds in the mix, but the ending to "Kaleidoscope of Thorns" is the best example of my experimentation and is one of the highlights of the album for me.