Review Summary: Mekong Delta are cracking the whip again.
Mekong Delta belong to a rather small club of metal bands that just don’t know how to make bad music. The albums issued between 1987 and 1997, plus the comeback affair Lurking Fear
in 2005, stand as essential evidence of the band’s ability in exploring the intermediate space between classical music and the tech ends of speed/thrash metal. The above being said, their 2010 outing Wanderer At The Edge of Time
was a good album overall, but fell rather short in reaching the appeal of its direct predecessor or previous albums. In what appeared to be a formal trial against legacy Mekong Delta material, the 2012 compilation album Intersections
provided some proof that the current incarnation of the band could go places, should it focused more decisively on its ‘90s progressive rock/metal era. And indeed, the 10th Mekong Delta observation In A Mirror Darkly
does just that, but with a rather unexpected, yet utterly welcome tech-thrash twist.
On par with the previous album, In A Mirror Darkly
clocks at 40+ minutes, but the extent of the track list follows the Iron-Maiden-80s-classics standard this time around. Fortunately, the sense of austerity and order in the track list has been extended to the actual music, which has been granted an optimal flow throughout the album. In that light, Mekong Delta are operating as a tech thrashing progressive rock
band. Some could argue that this has been done in Kaleidoscope
, but In A Mirror Darkly
appears to be a different story. In contrast to Kaleidoscope
or Visions Fugitives
, progressive/thrash metal is indistinguishably blended with the classical music elements into regular tracks.
As previously mentioned, the constituent elements of the new album come from the ‘90s (albums between Dances Of Death
and Pictures At An Exhibition
), but they have been translated into the band’s current state of play with no discount in quality. The same applies for the sound production which lies among the best the band ever had. The sound of the guitars has been configured for both a classical music orchestra and a rock/metal band, whereas the rhythm section sounds tight (albeit the drums may be slightly over-produced). Lastly, the primary and secondary vocal tracks are appropriately balanced with respect to the instrumental music, even when the latter is over the top, in terms of complexity and intensity.
Speaking of which; Mekong Delta are notorious for both, be it in studio albums or live performances. The firm structure of In A Mirror Darkly
in terms of musical arrangements and “secondary” attributes, allows it to continue that way. Bassist, and heart of the band Ralph Hubert, has managed to combine all
his musical incentives into a unified piece of work, perhaps for the first time in his career. Moreover, he has mined the best out of all band members. Alex Landenburg’s metronomic drumming is really impressive, as it copes with some really cumbersome shifts between time signatures whenever is necessary (“Hindsight Bias”).
The skills of guitarist Erik Grösch were evident from the previous album already, but the optimized flow of In A Mirror Darkly
has allowed him to display them in full. Whenever his rhythm guitars are not progging (sic) or thrashing, his leads sound as electric strings adapted for a classical orchestra, bringing in mind Mekong Delta's adaptation for Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition
. Last but not least, Martin LeMar’s vocals have been improved considerably, compared to the previous album. In addition, he has done a great job in configuring his main and secondary vocal melodies with respect to the not-so-vocals-friendly sites of the music.
In conclusion; Mekong Delta are cracking the whip again, as they have remedied the moderate ills of the previous album, both in musical and technical context. As the current line up endured the weight of the band’s back catalogue with Intersections
, Mekong Delta stirred the pot and produced a sound that should hopefully get them acquainted with more fans longing for essential/adventurous metal.