Lice - Woe Betide You
Season Of Mist
Experimental Post-Black
7 songs (47:27)
Release year: 2019
Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Goat

Something of a mini-supergroup, Lice features Shining mainman Niklas Kvarforth on vocals and Teitanblood drummer K, together with mysterious guitarist Kirill Krowli. And the trio make a weird form of music, not in the least sounding like Shining (other than Kvarforth's typically recognisable snarls) or Teitanblood's bleak torrential noise. Instead, it's a strange mixture of the avant-garde and post-rock, opening intro piece Beyond Eternal Recurrence almost too melodic and cheerful given the album's threatening demeanour. First track proper Layers of Dirt initially seems more focused, beginning with a synth-drenched form of post-black that languidly moves beneath Kvarforth as he hatefully rages at you. It's definitely darkly atmospheric; the vocal performance alone is malevolent and intense. Yet the backing music (as well-played as it is) just doesn't work as it should, feeling a little half-baked and unimaginative at points, especially on Toward Reality, the opening three minutes or so of which is almost minimalist as it builds agonisingly slowly, turning metallic but meandering and fading out frustratingly as it turns almost to gothic rock.

Compared to that, the upfront blackened torrent of Level Below is fascinating, having a sort of sloppy Mayhemic feel in the more violent parts and repeatedly breaking down into a drum-focused beatdown with Kvarforth's whispers and snarls atop it, at one point working in a proggy little section with some clean vocals. It's a standout song here by simple means of being the most well thought-out, even before some jazzy synth wails in the background that add a whole new dimension to the song. The following Roadkill is downright catchy compared to most tracks here, a groovy bit of blackened post-punk bopping towards the end doing wonders for the musicality and listener-friendliness of what is otherwise a very hard album to get into! Yet if you allow Lice time, they do work their way under your skin. Pride Eraser begins in a very The Cure-esque manner before upping the tempo to more usual black metal speeds and replacing the emotive clean singing with harsh snarls, breaking it all down again thereafter. Kvarforth's clean vocals here are far more interesting and tortured than his usual harsh snarl (he's an underrated vocalist partially because he's so good at the angst that he's known for) and the instrumentation does come close to a post-rock rise and fall that is oddly relaxing to listen to.

Yet as ever, trying to equate your favourite moments on an album to what the band were trying to achieve with it is something of a fool's game, and as a result Woe Betide You is a difficult album to sum up. Some moments simply don't work well, while some work terrifically and make you wish that the album had focused on that more - the way that closing piece ...And So the Ceaseless Murder of the World Came to an End begins with rushing blackened bile before abruptly switching to a melodic, downright proggy instrumental workout is excellent, for example, and more of this prog influence and less post-rock would have increased my liking for the album. But this isn't a progressive black metal album and the ensuing switch to a blackened post-rock rumble actually is effective, to the point where it has caused multiple re-listens as your reviewer tried to fathom this album out. It's hard not to be impressed by Lice, a (one-off?) project that has created a fascinating, intricate record, but it's also hard to recommend unless you're very into gothic rock, post-rock, and willing to embrace an imperfect listen despite its flaws.

Killing Songs :
Level Below, Roadkill, Pride Eraser
Goat quoted 60 / 100
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