With the release of their 2017 album Exoplanet, Belgium’s Stories From The Lost revealed a vision of itself that was the result of more than a half decade of fluid evolution, experimentation, and moving parts. A much different beast than the one that debuted with 2011’s For Clouds, there was an excited confidence about it that suggested they had finally found a fully comfortable footing. Aside from a final lineup tweak (original drummer Wout Lievens traded in his sticks for a full-time role heading up dunk!records, handing over duties to Geoffrey Vandewalle), the band has continued on the trajectory set with Exoplanet, and with more than two years spent focused on crafting and honing their punishing brand of doom-laden post-metal, they now emerge a tier above with the release of Alternate Endings.
Sonically, Alternate Endings furthers the band’s exploration of the darkest depths, building oppressive atmosphere with powerful vocals that range from piercing howls to funereal bellows, unyieldingly fierce riffs, muscular percussion, and ever-present disquieting electronics. What keeps the album consistently engrossing, though, is the way it teases its borders with glimmers of brightness and bursts of tuneful catchiness, and how it folds these elements symbiotically into its otherwise monolithic presence. “Raven’s Misanthropy,” for instance, scales compelling highs without compromising the grim edge that characterizes the entire record. Penultimate track “Coma Vault” exhibits a dense heaviness for much of its duration but really emerges and ties itself together during a memorably melodious climactic refrain. If not for integral moments such as these, Alternate Endings would be a more relentless experience, although a less impactful one.
There are additional complexities to be found when digging deeper into the lyrical content and concept behind the Alternate Endings title. Upon initial evaluation, there is an eye toward the crumbling of old stories, the failing of legends to impart their intended values in a modern world. There is the sense that sources we have always drawn strength, inspiration, and comfort from are no longer relevant, and are at risk to be forgotten. But when you move past the bleak appearance of this thought, there is the realization that the present is what will determine the future, not the past. Once we let go of the predictability, and the folly, of what we’ve always known, we open ourselves to a new world – one where we make our own mistakes, learn our own lessons, and forge our own strength. Counterbalancing the grave tone of the music with the rather sanguine nature of the underlying message gives Alternate Endings a rare “best-of-both-worlds” quality that is not often extended within the harsh landscape of post-metal. It is the next step for Stories From The Lost, one that leaves them quite a bit ahead of where we last found them.
— Text by David Zeidler
Alternate Endings by Stories From The Lost on 180g colored Grey Marble vinyl with lyrics insert.
Limited to 100 copies.