Review Summary: After a decade of silence, the twisted German orchestra of thrash assembles again.
While Germany’s thrash metal scene is mostly known for its simplistic yet effective aggression characterized by bands like Kreator, Sodom or Destruction, the vital underground scene provided possibilities for others as well. Musicians who thought outside of the musical box and perhaps no other band achieved as much with their unorthodox sound and approach as Mekong Delta. Formed in 1985 under the leadership of bass virtuoso and classical music fanatic Ralph Hubert, the group spent much of the late 80’s and early 90’s releasing some of the most well-crafted and truly progressive albums of the genre, with musicianship and songwriting that always pushed the envelope.
Even with the constantly changing members around him, Hubert managed to create a perfect fusion of aggressive yet complex guitar riffs, with the influence of older and modern classic music, jazz and avant-garde while never crossing the line of becoming an incomprehensible mess of styles and tones. After the band’s most experimental release in 1997 (a thrash metal rearrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition) the band went silent for many years to the point where even Hubert’s whereabouts were questioned. But around 2006 news started to come out about a reformation and a year later Lurking Fear was unleashed upon the world.
It could be said, that Mekong Delta made their return at the right time, because the mid 2000’s flourished with the revival of thrash but stylistically they never fitted into the usual crowd even in the 80’s. If anything even after two decades of musical evolution their music remained just as exciting, challenging and unique as it was on classics such as The Music of Erich Zann and Dances of Death. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And Hubert stayed true to this. Frantic and intense compositions with unexpected tempo changes" Check. Wailing guitar solos" Check. Thrash-styled takes on classic musical pieces" Check.
Right from the chaotic opening power chords of “Society In Dissolution”, Lurking Fear vibrates from pure energy as the guitars and drums whirl into fast, often dissonant riffs and breakdowns. Hubert always gathered top notch musicians for his commanding compositions and the players on Lurking Fear are no amateurs: Peter Sjöberg, former guitarist of the tech death band Theory in Practice spews one crazy and hypnotic riff after the other. The crunching accords and melodic leads line in perfectly with the band’s other albums, but the guitar work and the songs themselves have a much more menacing and violent edge to them. The dark and cold atmosphere is also enforced by the sharp production and Uli Kusch’s amazingly hard-hitting and powerful drumming.
Lurking Fear is no short of breathtaking tech-thrash displays. Whether it’s the wild, jumpy galloping of “Immortal Hate”, the vortex-like flow of “Rules Of Corruption” or the inspired takes on the work of 20th century Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. The only question remaining is there a vocalist out there who can match the twisted falsetto of Wolfgang Borgmann or Doug Lee" Enter former Wolf Spider and Scanner vocalist Leo Szpigiel whose register can charge into the higher tones but he also effectively mixes them with simple, percussive gang shouts. It fits well with the paranoid, unhinged sound and feel of the album.
Efficiently covering all of their former territories with 10 songs and 49 minutes, Mekong also manages to update their sound to the new millennium and maintain a sense of urgency, something that often feels lacking in modern thrash metal albums. Even the 7 minute behemoth “Defenders Of The Faith” paces its swirling instrumentalization and changing patterns in a way that that doesn’t becomes an indulgent exercise for the band to see just how much they can stuff into one song. High leveled-musicianship, open minded attitude and discipline are virtues, and when they all come together it results in inspired music. Mekong Delta has been doing it for 30 years now. Let’s hope they keep it up in the future as well.