Album of the Week 47-2013: Mekong Delta – Wanderer On The Edge Of Time

Mekong Delta’s bassist and composer Ralf Hubert has a unique way of fusing classical music with Heavy Metal sounds. Sure, there are plenty of symphonic Metal bands these days that flirt with that fusion, which makes sense as most good Metal is clearly rooted in classical music, but Hubert actually composes classical pieces with movements – rather than actual albums with songs – for a Metal band. His most successful attempts at this are both rondos for Rock groups he’s written: the fantastic ‘Dances Of Death’ from 1990 and its even better sequel ‘Wanderer On The Edge Of Time’, released twenty years later.

Essentially classical music performed on contemporary electric instruments, Mekong Delta’s music is often labelled as progressive Thrash Metal. And though that is probably the closest reference to an existing genre, it will probably throw fans of both Thrash Metal and Progmetal off, since it sounds like neither Metallica nor Dream Theater. Mekong Delta is truly a unique band that needs to be heard, preferably multiple times, to be understood. Whatever you choose to call it, ‘Wanderer On The Edge Of Time’ is an intense and moving composition and ultimately an extremely satisfying listening experience.

While this is really to be listened to as a continuous piece, the vocal parts can be heard as separate songs. That’s where part of this album’s brilliance lies as well: with Martin LeMar, Hubert has finally found the right singer for his music. While Doug Lee provided some enjoyable vocal work, the emotional range and power LeMar has is unbelievable. His vocals make something special of already fantastic compositions such as the fast and heavy ‘The Apocalypt – World In Shards’, the interestingly constructed ‘The 5th Element’ and the creeping madness of ‘Mistaken Truth’.

Like any rondo, ‘Wander On The Edge Of Time’ has a recurring theme that mostly manifests itself in the fantastic instrumental interludes. Besides being well written, the guitar work of both Erik Adam H. Grösch and Benedikt Zimniak is fantastic in thight execution as well as the fantastic guitar sound. The production on this album is fantastic anyway, allowing every instrument the room it has in the sonic spectrum and sounding remarkably easy on the ears, although the compositions are relatively chaotic.

But the true revelation instrumentally is Alex Landenburg. He has since been picked up by Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody and those who hear his work on this record can only expect him to be more in demand: his playing is tight, his double bass work is impressive even on the album’s highest tempos and – though this may be Hubert’s influence – his bass drum sound is much more powerful than on many other contemporary Metal releases.

Those who revel in Hubert’s genius most likely already have this album, but it is truly his brightest shining moment. ‘Dances Of Death’ is of similar brilliance, but the musicians involved in this – as well as the larger amount of technological possibilities developed in the two decades that hav passed – really help to raise the bar here. If you like what Hubert has done to Metal or to (mainly) Mussorgsky’s classical compositions, you shouldn’t let this one go either. Had I started this weblog a year sooner, this album would definitely have topped the 2010 list. Give it a chance and let it top yours as well!

Recommended tracks: ‘The Apocalypt – World In Shards (Le Maison Dieu)’, ‘The 5th Element (Le Bateleur)’, ‘Finale’

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