Synthwave artist James “Perturbator” Kent has been making waves in the electronic music scene for the better part of a decade, the momentum from his first releases in 2012 growing into the Billboard-chart topping “The Uncanny Valley” by 2016. With a penchant for darkness and a fearlessness that allows him to grow far beyond the usual boundaries of synthwave, Perturbator has prepared yet another release filled to the brim with darkness, turbulence, and nihilism. “Lustful Sacraments” paints an unholy darkness cloaking a broken future, made possible by masterfully crafted tones that balance between oppressive darkness and enchanting allure.
Laden with hooks and tainted with gothic flair, “Lustful Sacraments” flirts with both horror and even post-punk as the album weaves a tale of humanity’s depravity. From the short and sinister “Reaching Xanadu” to the closing epic “God Says,” the gradually increasing track lengths ensnare the listener and carry them along a dynamic series of atmospheric shifts. The energetic tempo of “Excess” is accented by brighter notes dancing like starlight above muted vocals, broken up by an ambient interlude that exudes tranquility. Pacing within “Excess” flows well into the slower “Secret Devotion,” which dials up the hazy lust evoked in the album’s title. A dreamy mist with soft vocal intonations couples with a nearly monotonous soundscape, each moment of gentleness offset by ominous undertones.
“Secret Devotion” is the first whisper of something gothic, a theme which is reinvigorated with the stunning “Dethroned Under A Funeral Haze.” This track opens much as a low fog rolls in, a malevolent mist that only thickens with each passing minute of somber notes, setting an almost mournful scene. The progression within the track is crucial to developing its atmosphere, a gradual and patient display of darkness crafted from electronic tones and a disembodied voice creeping from the shadows. Although most of the vocals in “Lustful Sacraments” are presented in an identical style across tracks, “Dethroned Under A Funeral Haze” shows this technique at its most effective. The depth of the voice, when coupled with the haunting reverberation, allow for the omnipresent vocal delivery to wrap around the listener entirely to the point of near suffocation.
Aside from funerary and gothic stylings, “Lustful Sacraments” has its fair share of excitement, even within the umbrella of synthwave. The climax comes with middle tracks “Death of the Soul” and “The Other Place.” Both have a grittier flavor coupled with an increase in pressure, adding to the tension which the more somber tracks help dissipate. This particular arrangement continues engaging with the listener and evading the typical expectations of where the album will go next. Touches of aggression add to an air of misanthropy while still displaying varied capabilities in songwriting on Perturbator’s part. They tie in well to the themes and tone set in the album’s opening track, enhancing the feeling of continuity throughout.
For an artist whose work is primarily captured by the genre ‘synthwave,’ some of the branching stylistic choices were pleasantly bold. But given just how well the atmosphere was captured in tracks such as “Dethroned Under A Funeral Haze,” it’s clear Perturbator has yet to reach the ceiling of potential. The electronic tones assist in gothic endeavors, with hints of punk influences giving the most aggressive points an even stronger edge. For the horror-tinted cinematic heights some songs reach, there are still stars above and an even greater variety that could be contained within an album as cohesive as this.
All in all, “Lustful Sacraments” is a strong work of synthwave that incorporates other styles seamlessly for a cinematic and dynamic listening experience. Its high points involve a dive into darker imagery, as well as a display of varied songwriting that results in strong hooks and even stronger album composition. Despite its more adventurous quirks, it seems there is still room for Perturbator to grow, and for “Lustful Sacraments” to serve as a strong stepping stone to an even stronger and more vibrant future.
Release Date: May 28th, 2021
- James Kent
“Lustful Sacraments” Track-listing:
- Reaching Xanadu
- Lustful Sacraments
- Secret Devotion (ft. True Body)
- Death of The Soul
- The Other Place
- Dethroned Under A Funeral Haze
- Messalina, Messalina
- God Says (ft. Hangman’s Chair)
"Lustful Sacraments" is a strong work of synthwave that reaches cinematic heights by incorporating gothic intrigue and the sharp bite of post-punk influence. Perturbator continues to grow and evolve, breaking the mold with ambition.