While Germany’s Lantlôs started out as a black metal act for their first few albums, the band’s figurehead Markus Siegenhort has more recently strived to convert them into something more. Siegenhort’s foray into his brand of heavy shoegaze with 90s harmonies was fully realized on 2014’s Melting Sun, the first Lantlôs album recorded without co-founder Neige (also of the band Alcest). It featured the expected axe grinding chords, but also extraordinary melodies that wouldn’t have fit on Lantlôs’ earlier albums.
Expectations were high for Wildhund, but the five year wait from its original announcement to its eventual release hasn’t exactly built any momentum. Siegenhort attempted to be as transparent as he could be, explaining the setbacks and the restarts sporadically throughout the process via social media. But, as transmissions went dark (sometimes for a whole year), Wildhund started to feel more like a Yandhi situation than a Black Messiah, and, as a result, interest in it began to dwindle.
Even as hints started to emerge that things were moving in the right direction – test pressings for the vinyl, talk of artwork, etc. – having the album finally here doesn’t quite feel like an m b v moment, but it does bring with it a certain euphoria on a lower level. While the album does move the sound of the band further from its roots, Wildhund is still a mostly enjoyable shoegaze/metal hybrid from start to finish.
Lantlôs’ pivot with Melting Sun came with a new swarm of fans clamoring for big metal aesthetic coupled with cleaner vocals, but it no doubt left fans of their debut and .neon feeling abandoned. They aren’t the first band to reinvent themselves, especially in this genre – Swedish prog-metallers Opeth made a gradual push from the throat shredding darkness on Damnation to the opaque harmonies on Pale Communion, and more recently Deafheaven’s shown signs of a complete revamp with their forthcoming Infinite Granite – but they always have mixed results with their fanbase. It’s a gamble, one that may pay off with an expanded fanbase as it did with Melting Sun, but it also shrinks that diehard collective slightly.
Wildhund continues this journey, but with less thematic elements and cohesion. Opener “Lake Fantasy” shares nothing in common with midpoint “Amber”, outside of typical instrumentation and the random scream. While this is intentional, it’s a moderate step away from the monolithic feel and force of Melting Sun. Wildhund ultimately feels like a series of little experiments rather than a complete thought; it dabbles in various styles but still arrives at the same endpoint: a metal album that’s overstuffed with all the bells and whistles from recent fads in the genre.
Lyrically, Siegenhort sounds sincerer on Wildhund, with lyrics that evoke a tranquil state of mind – “Am I here, am I right now?/ I’ve never felt this / Never felt before,” he exclaims on “Lake Fantasy”, showing self-awareness of his emotional core and development. There’s a sense of growth in his words now, making Wildhund the most emotionally heavy Lantlôs album yet – it’s clear that Siegenhort is making up for lost time.
While there’s little thematic progression here, Wildhund benefits from a diverse trove of sounds, making the album more of a Lantlôs collage than a strict narrative. “Planetarium” sways nonlinearly, with callbacks to space-rock and electronic timbres, while woozy samples and ethereal tones complement the surrealistic sound. Welcome moments like these are spaced out, breaking up the repetition that hinders Wildhund.
“The Bubble” just sort of drones on and on instrumentally, a common trait of post-metal, but it wears thin after a while as Siegenhort’s vocals get overpowered by the noise. The album seesaws back and forth this way, with light and dark zigzags that feel retrograded after the symbolic progress of Melting Sun. Then there’s “Lich”, the uncompromising closing track of Wildhund, which will undoubtedly challenge its audience while acting as a segue to the bonus electronic album Glitchking. Over half-way into it, a grating and limp autotuned performance does little to satisfy any logical thinking Lantlôs fan.
Wildhund feels like a brazen attempt at moving the needle. There are giants in this wing of shoegaze and metal, and while Lantlôs seems to be trying valiantly to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and overcome the high bar set by Melting Sun, it’s a measure they unfortunately can’t reach.