Review: LLNN – Unmaker

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Unmaker, you got the best of me.

Faint is my memory of Danish band LLNN‘s last album; I professed to like it in a mini review (which links back to another round of minis featuring even more dead Toileteers—check it out!), but it never made it into my collection. Curious. Or not so curious, as post-metal is a notoriously difficult genre for me. It’s often too slow and feels too laborious. It was therefore nice of LLNN to sort of meet me halfway by writing compact songs and making up for playing slow by making the slowness sound really damn heavy. Nonetheless, the album apparently didn’t stick.

Accordingly, I only gave Unmaker a brief glance when it came out back in September. Now that is a fact that, after coming back to the album recently, I do find curious. How was I, a being with more or less functioning ears, able to dismiss it? How did its crushing force pass me by? What mental state was I in that left no room for the sheer vibes of this record? And, to get to an actually pertinent question, what made me want to tell you about this thing pretty much the minute I properly heard it?

Well, to begin with, the qualities I praised about their last album are still here: brevity and heaviness. Songs have even gotten a little shorter, almost universally clocking in under 5 minutes, with the album running its course in a crisp 39 minutes. This helps me immensely and surprisingly doesn’t detract from the music’s ambitious scope.

As for the heaviness… I don’t remember it being this heavy. With their booming low-end and plodding pace, these riffs feel like they set planetary levels of weight in motion, and they are out to smash you into a pulp. I’d say the music resides at a junction of post-metal and sludge, and if you’re into sludge for its thick, hefty, suffocatingly dense sound, you will most certainly find that here, topped off with a consistently intense, vitriolic vocal performance.

Fans of post-metal might be looking for something more grandiose, and they won’t be left wanting, either. Closely entwined with the immense might of the guitars are near-constant ambient elements that the band created by warping and distorting samples of found footage. What might sound like an artsy fartsy idea and could amount to nothing more than blips and bloops added for flavor actually ends up providing an ominous soundscape befitting a full-fledged sci-fi movie score, significantly shaping the music and heightening its impact. With ease, the dark and foreboding sounds can conjure images of dying stars and the gargantuan machinations that destroyed them or colossal spaceships and the uncertain terrors they encounter in the vast blackness. The cosmic ballet is out of whack, and it is horrific to behold.

Coming back to this review two days later in the hopes of finishing it, those strike me as quite dramatic words, but I feel somewhat vindicated by the Bandcamp page quoting an actual movie sound designer explaining his fascination with the album and the band recommending two sci-fi sound effects libraries. They are clearly fascinated with this kind of ambiance, and the album trailer shows how much care went into creating it (and features some really cool welding masks).

As quickly as the music’s recipe had me hooked (and reeled in, and gutted), the effect soon began to wear off a little bit. While both sides of the equation—the intense heaviness and the big atmosphere—are present from the very beginning, the first three tracks rely much more on the former than the latter. My first spin had me questioning how entertaining an album’s worth of this could be by the time “Obsidian” rolled around, but the interlude “Vakuum” proved a portent of change.

From that point onwards, the music becomes a lot more dynamic, with the humungous C H U G Gs frequently melting away into the background to leave room for the ambient side of the music to step forward and build something on its own. This juxtaposition has the additional benefit of giving the heavy parts a lot of their heft back; a thunderous riff just hits different when it follows a quieter part. While the overall pace of the music never notably changes, it’s throughout tracks 5 to 9 where it really shines, with “Interloper” and “Division” marking a high point.

By the time quasi-closer “Tethers” rolls around, the scale has tipped strongly to the other side, as this is not only the longest song but provides the strongest post-metal vibe with its slow build towards a crescendo that levels everything in its path one final time to make way for the eerie outro.

There’s nothing left to say except to reiterate what a colossal ass I’ve been for sleeping on this album for so long. Don’t make the same mistake; get in on this before the flood of 2022 releases hits. It’s left me so speechless that I can’t even think of a funny scale to use, so ol’ faithful will have to suffice to give this its well-deserved

4.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

Unmaker came out in September via Pelagic Records.

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