Having become one of the handful of bright spots and memorable names within a mostly repetitive field of synthwave, James “Perturbator” Kent went on to take a shift in both sound and aesthetics with the release of the 2017 record New Model, leaning away from the retro vibes and brassy, bright synths into darker, more gothic, and industrial elements that had remained mostly in the background of previous records. Even the album art visually reflects this adjustment with no neon in sight. Lustful Sacraments takes that darker side one step further, stepping almost unrecognizably away from synthwave and into a record dripping with darkwave, industrial, and post-punk elements.
After the brief intro of “Reaching Xanadu,” the titular opening track immediately lets you know what you are in for with echoed, haunting guitar and vocals backed by moody pads and still-familiar retro synths. Gone immediately, however, is that synthwave pulse or mood that brings a bright, fun visual along with the sounds. This is not that kind of record. “Excess” perhaps sounds the most like a traditional Perturbator track on Lustful Sacraments, but with a goth/rock guitar sound carrying right along with the synth. On the next two tracks, “Secret Devotion” and “Death of the Soul,” an industrial/EBM influence gets put on full display, bringing the energy of the record up significantly with thumping basslines. The remainder of the record begins to drag a bit as the final four tracks take up over 25 minutes of the album’s nearly 50 minute running time, tending to blur together a bit, However, a couple of highlights include “Messalina, Messalina,” which could be directly from a horror movie soundtrack, and “Dethroned Under a Funeral Haze,” which could best be described as a full-on Type O Negative-style doom-and-gloom anthem that could be played at any goth club on the planet and fit right in. The record comes to a fittingly slow, moody climax with the eight minutes of “God Says,” featuring a guest vocal performance from French doom rock act Hangman’s Chair.
From the spooky album art to the arrangement and composition of the tracks, all the way down to the song titles themselves, this is meant to be a step away from the past and into a different future for Perturbator, which is worth knowing if a fan of the classic Perturbator sound were to pick up this record. It will be interesting to see if this darker aesthetic becomes the true new model for the project, but it does a great job of evolving the sounds far past being pigeonholed as synthwave and very well executed by a producer who is constantly pushing himself to stay outside of the box and try something different.