Album review: Perturbator – Lustful Sacraments

French synth-rocker Perturbator embraces gothic gloom on fifth album, Lustful Sacraments

Album review: Perturbator – Lustful Sacraments
Olly Thomas

Few musicians epitomised the synthwave scene of the 2010s more than Perturbator. But all tech needs an upgrade from time to time, and Lustful Sacraments completes the reboot of his sound which began with 2017’s New Model EP. Only shadowy traces of early influences like John Carpenter remain, overwritten with techno-driven beats and a seriously moody vibe.

In some respects, this is a case of swapping one form of nostalgia for another, Perturbator’s primary influences shifting sideways in time from the neon glow of sci-fi film soundtracks to the decidedly gloomier environments of ’80s and early ’90s post-punk and industrial. With live guitars now part of the sonic arsenal, tunes like Messalina, Messalina and the title track revel in their collision of goth riffs and early NIN energy, while The Other Place and Dethroned Under A Funeral Haze glower like Depeche Mode at their imperial best. You can practically smell the dry ice.

But if the individual components that make up Lustful Sacraments are familiar, there’s still something unique in the way Perturbator has assembled them. A strange ambience permeates these tracks, imbuing them with a darkness that feels genuinely ominous and oppressive. This uncanny quality even extends to the artwork, eschewing the scantily-clad ladies and VHS cover imagery of his early releases in favour of a partially-obscured view of a ritual dance bathed in eerie light; you want to know what’s going on, but can’t help feeling that taking a closer look might not end well.

No such worries with a deep dive into this album, though: as he continues to evolve, Perturbator has come up with his most thrilling work to date.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Fotocrime, Drab Majesty

Lustful Sacraments is released on May 28 via Blood Music.

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