James Kent is always recording music, yet this is his first album since 2016’s The Uncanny Valley. Two EPs and two volumes of remixes/b-sides kept the fans satiated during this time, but now he’s back, and he’s darker and more introspective than ever with his aggravated dance beats. Welcome to the world of Perturbator.
Except for Carpenter Brut, nobody has done more in recent times to bring synthwave into the consciousness of a rock and metal audience. That might be because Kent’s background is in black metal and his aesthetics veer towards the dystopian and disturbing. The title track is a slithery concoction of Sisters of Mercy and French electronic duo, Justice. Reverb-heavy drum snares and droning bass notes set the introverted mood with samples of guitar delay and arpeggiated trance rhythms. This is the music of the anti-hero outsider who plays by no rules but his own. ‘Excess’ is the opposite and will remind you of the intro to Depeche Mode’s ‘Work Hard’ from their 1984 People are People EP (US Only). Six minutes is a bit excessive, even for a song called ‘Excess’, when you consider the superfluous final minute of atmospheric indulgence. Yet it never fails to retain your attention and creep up on you like a bubbling panic attack.
As with any Perturbator record, you’re always keen to see who Kent brings in on guest vocals. The excellent ‘Secret Devotion’ features Virginian post-punks, True Body, and vibrates with the hard groove of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Down in It’ before going into Ian Curtis mode. This thirty-eight-year-old reviewer would even break his vow to never visit a night club again if they played music like ‘Death of the Soul’. This one threatens to be too progressive to hook in the ravers and EBM crowd, but the hard kick drum and Skinny Puppy bass will get the hips gyrating in no time. Recent signings to Nuclear Blast, Hangman’s Chair, provide the other notable collaboration. The discordant keyboard notes and John Carpenter laser synths create an immersive dreamscape of echoing vocal lamentations and a vibe not too different from Greg Puciato’s solo album from last year. Eight minutes ought to be too long, but Kent fashions his synth hooks and composes his tempos as if writing prog metal. Nobody does a cathartic slowdown in tempo like Perturbator. You could even call ‘Dethroned Under a Funeral Haze’ doom synth, like a colder version of Author & Punisher.
If there’s one weakness of Lustful Sacraments, it’s the way some of the songs start with the same exhilarating mood as Depeche Mode’s classic Black Celebration album, only to remain as pondering mood pieces rather than evolving into the dark anthems of Martin Gore and the boys. It seems a waste not to furnish such impressive compositions with the occasional baritone chorus. Greg Puciato or Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas McCarthy would have been an ideal collaborator to bring one or two of these tracks to life.
The beauty of Lustful Sacraments is its adaptability. You can listen to this on the treadmill or in the dark of your front room and still lose yourself in the late-night edge of the minor key drones and sordid ambience. It may lack that one exquisite song needed for a great record, but you cannot fault the consistency or pleasure factor.
Release Date: 28/05/2021
Record Label: Blood Music
Standout tracks: Lustful Sacraments, Secret Devotion, The Other Place
Suggested Further Listening: Depeche Mode – Remixes 81…04 (2004), Sisters of Mercy – First and Last and Always (1985), Carpenter Brut – Blood Machines OST (2020)