Review Summary: A promising band may have just delivered a horror-metal classic.The Lion’s Daughter
have been pushing the game lately on innovation - truly surpassing their competition on how maximally hideous their album cover is. This already sets up a barrier for entry; I mean, try showing this album to your friends and family, convince them that there truly is good music underneath the yucky taste of weird horror porn.
I’ve been following The Lion’s Daughter
for a few years now as their 2018 album, Future Cult
, is what introduced me to the band. Their skillful fusion of sludge and black metal combined with novel synth work is what made this band unique amongst the swath of underground extreme metal bands.
I’d call myself somewhat of a connoisseur for fun synthesizer work - especially in the progressive metal sphere - so, The Lion’s Daughter
became one of those bands that I had a soft spot for. In a sense, I considered them a guilty pleasure; I knew that they were not the most technical, intricate, or talented band out there as many of their non-synth instrumental performances and often simplistic songwriting left room to be desired. Despite this, I spent a great amount of time listening to The Lion’s Daughter
as almost no other bands meet the gothic, colorfully spooky aesthetic that I loved about them. In the past, their music generally did a good job at representing themes in their album artwork, using alluringly wicked synth tones (in the style of gothic rock and horror cinema) to conjure images that vaguely resemble the versions of goth raves and latex BDSM clubs. Do not ask how I know. You can think of the instrumental compositions from their past three albums to be not far off from Danny Baranowsky
’s soundtrack to The Binding of Isaac
In a way, I had some uncompromising expectations going into Bath House
that would be quite tough for the band to meet (primarily because they have no ***ing idea who the hell I am and have no prima facie reason to appeal to the standards of some nerd on the internet). However, it’s by sheer luck that they’ve managed to improve on most of the weaknesses of previous releases without confounding their established artistic identity. And despite the gross anthropomorphic fish monster on the cover, this is actually an album I can brag on behalf of.
I’m not sure how it’s possible, but they’ve gotten more sludgy, more blackened, more progressive, and—somehow—more catchy. Vibrant, sinister tremolo riffs scrape through the forefront as a world of thick, grumbly vibrations layer the backdrop with sludgy guitar reverb. The rhythm section in this album is so tight and has a uniquely intimidating sonic personality, providing a menacing heartbeat the album needs to be as scary to listen to as it is. The band’s trademark keyboards alternate between a litany of melodramatic synth chords and unnerving buggy sound effects while their vocalist delivers hook after hook of gritty melodic cleans and gargling animalistic growls. Not too many guitar solos show up but are a treat when they do.
This devilishly gorgeous package of sounds is conceived of and executed wonderfully throughout all of the tracks on this album with variations in keyboard tones, melodies, and experimental ideas. However, it seems that the internet at large agrees with my initial impression that the best rendition of this formula is track four, “Your Pets Died on TV”. Being one of the more progressive tracks on the album, the tempo shifts and interludes allow each of the band members to have moments where their skills shine. The third quarter of the track hits abnormally hard, sending you through a sequence of intense, escalating prog metal riffs, unwinding electronics backed by hurried screams, a chillingly isolated rhythm section, then backed by funereal keyboards to illustrate the visceral decay of your beloved pets.
The track “Liminal Blue” sticks out with its surreal, funky synth melody to highlight the uncanny nature of the blue you will see as your consciousness scrambles to find its final images before reaching the void. “Maximize Terror” demonstrates how The Lion’s Daughter
can be progressive with their innovative vocal composition as two members dual with growls at an unfamiliar tempo (I also can’t say how underrated it is to begin a song with a guitar solo). “12-31-89” begins with 80s synth-pop keys reminiscent of A-ha
’s “Take on Me” and HotLine Miami
, this heavily contrasts with sludgy guitar textures and an interlude that reminds me of something either out of an IER
album or the horror movie Barbarian
. It should be said too that the clean vocals on here are quite good, both in their technical execution and in their compositional writing; “Bath House” and “Crawler Night” are two tracks that have choruses that rival that of Mastodon
themselves. The “End Credits” leave us off with the salty taste of The Ocean
with their smooth vocals and bass riff fitting of “Palaeoscene”.
Most of the songs on Bath House
have fairly creative structures with peaks and valleys that climax effectively. Furthermore, the band also adds quite a bit of fun and unexpected components that make this a fun listen through the end. There is a considerable variety here that helps the album get better with each successive listen and I think this will become one of my personal favorites. If I were to place bets, I’d say The Lion’s Daughter
have peaked here. However, I would be happy to lose a hundred-dollar bet to be proven wrong.