11 years is a long time in the music industry. For many bands, it is an entire lifetime, but for The Lillingtons it was just an opportunity to gather strength. For years, The Lillingtons flew just beneath the general radar with a rabid cult-following…until now. Stella Sapiente sees the band gather their acolytes in a campaign for hearts, minds, souls and the domination of the earth.
The dark and otherworldly echoes of “Golden Dawn/Knights Templar” open the album, with lush guitars reverberating into the shadows: equal parts dark ritual and signals from another world. Vocalist and guitarist Kody Templeman paints an aural picture of mystery, that bleeds seamlessly into “Insect Nightmares’. Buzzsaw crunch gives way to a dueling guitar riff Ronnie James Dio would solemnly flash an approving pair of horns at.
The retro vibe continues with “Night Visions”. Deep chorus effects evoke a dark-wave feel, while the gothic horror of the lyric “recurring nightmares cloud my mind, eradication of mankind” weave a Lovecraftian atmosphere of intrigue and foreboding. The band then powers into “K6” and “Zodiac”, more up-tempo, driving tracks. “Pursuit of Pleasure” has one of the most fun choruses I have heard in a while: simple and inescapable like a black hole.
“London Fog” opens with a riff and tone that evoke The Misfits “London Dungeon” with reverence, without feeling like a lift. “Cult of Dagon” is a dis-harmonic, synth powered acid trip followed by “Villagers” and “The Walker”: tracks that maintain the macabre atmosphere while revving the intensity and beats per minute back up. “They Live” shows the band at its absolute best: galloping drums leading scorching guitars in a harmonic race into the unknown. Dual guitars rip into leads that would bring Thin Lizzy to tears. The album closes with the same speed and strength with punk rock/80’s metal hybrid “Drawing Down the Star”, then fades out enigmatically.
Just from the opening riffs of Stella Sapiente, you quickly appreciate the band’s evolution as musicians from their Ramones-core origins. Effects are used to establish mood and emphasize the music brilliantly. The album radiates a dark, mysterious energy while keeping the speed and seriousness of The Too Late Show. This record may be The Lillingtons crowning achievement to date: showcasing a band at the peak of its songwriting ability pushing its own boundaries. This record isn’t a reinvention, its an evolution. My only real complaint is the length: like a dream, the record is over before you’re ready to wake up.
Stella Sapiente is available now through Fat Wreck Chords.