Mekong Delta
Mekong Delta



by ChaoticVortex USER (53 Reviews)
January 26th, 2016 | 11 replies

Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The twisted, nightmarish soundtrack of a war from hell, Germany’s finest unleash their dark magic with no one to prevail.

When it comes to the historical evolution of heavy metal in certain places, Germany can be rightfully seen as a place where there is a much bigger focus on keeping the traditional and more simplistic, but effective approaches alive especially in the 80’s. Of course not all groups settled with the usual thrash metal tropes of blistering speed, pure aggression and marching on the battlefield, and if you dig deep down, you can find musically more ambitious, creative and unorthodox groups like Deathrow, Depressive Age or Sieges Even. However there is one band that plays a very significant and influential role, one band that can be seen as the frontiers of technical thrash metal whom set the standards for other to follow or even top: Mekong Delta.

Formed in 1985 by Aaarrg Records owner and bass phenomenon Ralph Hubert, Mekong Delta was among the few thrash metal bands among the time whom willingly gave up on the usual and popular way of playing thrash metal, in exchange of experimentation and progression. Like their early and equally less known tech-thrash contemporaries, their musical approach is characterized by odd and sometimes jarring time signatures, dissonant riffing, chaotic song structuring and a heavy dosage of other musical genres into the average mix. With Watchtower it was the spontaneous and bewildered nature of jazz fusion, with Voivod it was the raw grit of hardcore punk and the psychotic trippines of space rock. With Mekong Delta you can sense the speed-driven roots of the music, but the traces of 70’s progressive rock, the improvisational approach of German krautrock and Hubert’s love of classical music is crystal clear and evident especially on later year albums.

The more technical and virtuoso approach wasn’t just by accident: Hubert and his bandmates were all accomplished and highly talented musicians, that played in other bands and one of their main goal was to outshine their all then-current releases. The band’s first incarnation even included Rage’s mastermind Peavy Wagner and Jörg Michael whom later became the drummer of Finnish power metal legends Stratovarious. For their 1987 debut record the bass duties were taken over by Hubert himself who also teamed up with the two shredding axeman of Living Death: Reiner Kleich and Frank Fricke. With a full line-up formed Mekong Delta made their mark with an influential and intriguing piece of mayhem that maintains its quality after more than two decades.

The opening cerebral guitar noises of “Without Honour” already create an aura of uneasiness and dread that maintains itself, even after the song explodes into a rush of furious wall-to-wall riffs that twist and tangle into each other with high energy. The riffs themselves are also unusual sounding due their choppy patterning, bizarre guitar tone and reliance on such atmospheric resorts like feedback, flowing taps, echoing guitar solos and unexpected tempo changes. Due to this even the most accessible classic thrash metal-like tracks such as “Kill the Enemy” or “Nightmare Patrol” carries a unique and chilling sound that makes them come off as memorable and fresh, not clichéd and boring.

It’s important to mention that this record might be their least difficult record to comprehend due to the fact, that most songs here are not as crammed with jarring and complex composition that their other records contain, and the listener-friendly moderate pacing in most of the songs are a clear sign of that. However this doesn’t means that we’re dealing with sugarcoated stuff as evidenced with “The Hut of Baba Yaga” which is the band’s first cover of classical music where the arrangement is essentially replaced with metal instruments. Or we can mention the sporadic and erratic sensibilities of songs like “The Cure” or “Shiva’s Return” where we jump between sprawling rhythm sections, haunting choruses and equally frenzied guitar solos that manage be to both uncontrolled, maniac shreddings as well as eerie reflections.

Another thing that plays a big part in the musical mix is the high pitched falsetto vocals by Wolfgang Bormann. His over-the-top delivery can easily come off as annoying and distracting for most, however I think he does a very sufficient job by contrasting his voice to the gritty riffs, thus creating another musically dissonant but lasting and experimental impressions. And such impressions are the cornerstones on which the band builds upon on their later recordings. The lyrics are simple and nothing too memorable as most of them cover the hellish psychical and emotional trauma of warfare. The production on the other hand is surprisingly good with most instruments well balanced (just pay attention the juicy bass) and not as murky sounding as most German thrash records at the time.

When it comes to sheer technicality, ambition and musical bravado, the self-titled album might fall short to the rest of Mekong Delta’s discography which is some of the most head-twisting and brilliant marriages between of progressive and thrash metal. But its raw pulsating energy and creative flourishes makes it a very solid listen for any metal fan who’s looking for “out of the ordinary” stuff. Plus even if it carries just the seeds of the band’s later evolution, they sure as hell were ahead of their time back in ’87.

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user ratings (61)

Comments:Add a Comment 
January 26th 2016


Album Rating: 4.0

I'm perplexed by the lack of Mekong Delta reviews here. One of the best tech-thrash bands out there and nobody bothered to cover these guys. So I decided why not?

As always any constructive criticism is welcome.

Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2016


Album Rating: 4.5

Excellent review, pos.

Mekong Delta is among top 5 80s speed metal albums, period.

I was thinking about starting to fill the gaps in here, and eventually I will write reviews of my own , but I sense that you will do a very good job at it.

Digging: Sordide - Hier Dj Mort

January 26th 2016


Sweet, pos. Great choice, I need to dig this band harder.

January 26th 2016


Album Rating: 3.5

good rev, pos'd sweet band

January 26th 2016


Good write-up, I recommend proof-reading, though. Lots of randomly missing conjunctions and what not. Nevertheless, pos'd

January 26th 2016


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks RunOfTheMill, I read it again and did a little bit of writing clean-up here and there. Hopefully it's better now.

January 26th 2016


I haven't heard this one, but these guys are awesome. Nice review.

August 26th 2016


Album Rating: 4.0

black sabbath is such a cool track


August 20th 2018


Album Rating: 4.0

Bumped this up to a 4.

Space Jester
November 21st 2018



January 13th 2019


Album Rating: 4.0


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