Perturbator aka James Kent is one of the forerunners of synthwave music. The French artist, son of music journalists and dance duo Nick Kent and Laurence Romance (Euphoria) has made a name for himself during the years exporting the genre beyond is initial fan base and reaching the ears of metalheads. His style showcases a darker take informed by John Carpenter’s soundtracks and cyberpunk folklore, a version of synthwave that has been copied by other acts quite often.
In recent years some of the key actors in the movement have been experimenting with its boundaries, mixing it with other genres in what we could call a post-synthwave phase. Carpenter Brut courted glam rock vibes in “Leather Teeth” while GosT fused synthwave, darkwave and black metal in “Possession” and especially “Valediction”. Perturbator is no strange to this phenomenon, his last EP “New Model” flirted with electro-industrial and EBM undertones showcasing a changing in style.
Now after 4 years he returns with his fifth full-length “Lustful Sacraments”, an album heavily inspired by 80’s post-punk with way somber and more decadent atmospheres than the past. For sure his parallel projects L’ Enfant De La Forêt and Ruin Of Romantics were strong influence in this direction due to their experimental and goth nature, the first one a mix of trip-hop, dark ambient, metal, the second one a darkwave affair.
While not as adventurous as the aforementioned projects, the new album from Perturbator takes the usual noir atmosphere and electronic tapestry of his music and use then as a ground upon which he lays evocative guitars and guest vocals full of morose pathos.
If the intro “Reaching Xanadu” presents the usual moody synth sounds and suspended rhythms amidst cinematic darkness, the following title track fully displays the new style with its guitar loops, steady drum machine and reverberated vocals, completing the scene with eerie melodies.
“Excess” is a faster track with guest vocals from Maniac 2121, one of the most nostalgic moments on the album with its punk refrain and dense vibes, and the collaboration with True Body “Secret Devotion” takes a note or two from mid-80’s Depeche Mode.
“Death Of The Soul” is the only moment on the album directly recalling the industrial /EBM style of “New Model”, a brooding affair with hard kicks and throbbing basslines featuring obsessive vocals from female guest BELIAL, the club moment of the album.
The second half is a little bit less interesting, repeating the new found formula in tracks echoing the sound of names like The 69 Eyes, The Sisters Of Mercy, Fields Of The Nephilim. That’s not to say the tracks are not well executed, it’s just they add little to what already established in the previous songs.
Lustful Sacraments is a moment of change with some engaging elements and others that need further refinement if Perturbator chooses to follow this path with future efforts. The vocal delivery is not always on par with its inspirations, and in a more voice – driven album like this one better vocal lines need to be more prominent, and sometime the mix of moden synth-sounds and post-punk guitars is a little bit patchy. That said, the work opens the door to a myriad of future possibilities and establishes Perturbator as more than a project inevitability confined in the parameters of synthwave music.
Release date: May 28th, 2021.
Text by: Davide Pappalardo