Review Summary: Metal influenced by classical music is often shrouded in obscurity, resulting in strongly talented bands remaining unknown throughout their careers. Mekong Delta is a case in point.
Combining the term "classical" with metal is a dangerous conversational move in the presence of some music critics. For those who are not entirely familiar with the genre, classical-influenced metal seems to be filled with negative stereotypes arising from Yngwie Malmsteen's excessive guitar wankery, The Human Abstract's arrogantly self-proclaimed belle époque
, and Dragonforce's processed-and-canned corniness. However, every once in a blue moon, a band comes around that smashes the listener's preconceptions about a given genre.
Enter Mekong Delta.
Combining classical music with tech-thrash, Mekong Delta is a musical force to be reckoned with. Visions Fugitives
incorporates influences from innumerable genres, ranging the gamet from avant-garde to classical to progressive to thrash metal. Tracks such as "Introduction" and "Postludium" feature passionately touching classical guitar, while tracks such as "Them", "Imagination", and "Allegro" are relatively straightforward progressive metal with a thrash-like approach. Due to the album's vast range of sounds and influences, Visions Fugitives
is an enigmatic album to categorize as a whole. Nonetheless, each song relates to the next in an indescribable manner, giving the release an undeniable sense of unity.
As the album kicks off with the frantic intro to "Them," it's made clear that this German metal band pays homage to the classical music behemoths of their mother country - namely Bach and Mozart. At this point, the listener can make several accurate assumptions about Visions Fugitives
; first of all, the band can lock in through technical passages without overproduction, and second, the mixing allows for all instruments to be balanced and audible (in other words, you can hear the bass). Before the technicality-filled assault overstays its welcome, Mekong Delta digs into the meat of the song. Then it happens - the make or break point of a progressive metal band - Mekong Delta follows the technicality by fully exercising restraint and accessibility through impeccable songwriting abilities. This is further solidified with consistency throughout the remainder of the album. This consistency is not unlike Willy Wonka's golden ticket; it is as rare as it is sought after, and - if found - is the most valued part of your purchase.
Having a guitar solo fly over your head without
recognizing it as one most often means one of two things: either the song has desensitized you with superfluous guitar leads (ah-hem, Yngwie...) or the guitarist's solo was added for the sole purpose of enhancing the song, and did so successfully. Standing testament to this dichotomy, after my first listen to this album, I thought to myself, "Wow, a progressive metal band without solos?" However, upon my second listen, it became apparent that the guitarists can shred with the best of them, yet seldom do it, and never
rely upon it. But, when they do shred, it's subtle and supportive of the song, rather than taking it over, making it all the more impressive. Similarly, the vocalist can sing quite proficiently and fits the sound well, yet is at the bottom
of the mix. This may be a concern for some, but it seems appropriate in context, as he uses his voice as though it were an accompanying instrument more so than he leads the band. However, regardless of their strong sense of restraint and judgment, several songs, such as "Fugue", tend to get slightly repetitive and last a bit longer than their worth, but still maintain strong focus.
From the pounding double-bass triplets and chugging guitars of "Imagination" to the powerfully emotional classical guitar of "Introduction" and "Postludium", Visions Fugitives
proves to be an widely unknown magnum opus in metal as a whole with well-matured judgment and creativity coupled with strong musicianship. Unfortunately, the vast stereotypes of the genre often cause bands to be labeled "guilty by association," and are dismissed into obscurity without further investigation. Don't make this mistake with Mekong Delta.