Album of the Week 18-2014: Mekong Delta – In A Mirror Darkly

Mekong Delta was always one of the most interesting Metal bands around, but no one could have predicted the second youth they have been experiencing lately. In fact, with their best singer yet on board in the form of Martin LeMar, the band surrounding mastermind Ralf Hubert recorded their best sounding album ever – both sonically and compositionally – in ‘Wanderer On The Edge Of Time’ in 2010. And even with those high expectations, ‘In A Mirror Darkly’ does not disappoint. On the contrary; it’s as much an artistic triumph for Hubert as its predecessor was.

For those unfamiliar with Mekong Delta’s sound: to the untrained ear, their music sounds like a very progressive, maybe even technical take on Thrash Metal. Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that Hubert is strongly influenced by classical music. Not in the least place by the way the album is composed. Not unlike ‘Wanderer On The Edge Of Time’,  ‘In A Mirror Darkly’ is a continuous piece of music with the tracks being movements within the composition. That doesn’t mean that the tracks don’t work separately, but it’s a fact that the album is best listened to in its entirity.

The musicianship on ‘In A Mirror Darkly’ is – as usual with the band – among the best you’ll ever hear in the genre. Alex Landenburg is one of the best drummers I have ever heard and Hubert’s bass creates a surprisingly strong fundament of riffs with Erik Grösch’s guitar, considering the highly unpredictable nature of the compositions. One won’t be able to grasp how exciting the musical interaction of these three men is unless you hear – for instance – the incredible instrumentals ‘Ouverture’ and ‘Inside The Outside Of The Outside’. It’s among the best instrumental Metal – or classical music recorded on modern electric instruments – ever recorded.

Once LeMar enters the picture, it’s obvious that he is another factor that lifts today’s Mekong Delta above even their classic early work. His voice is lower than all of his predecessors, but he has a range of emotions and a power that all of them lacked. For instance, a dark, atmospheric and ominous piece like ‘The Silver In God’s Eye’ wouldn’t have worked without him. But even on the faster, more aggressive material, like the amazing closing salvo of ‘Hindsight Bias’ and ‘Mutant Messiah’, his voice just sounds amazing.

In the end, the only things that makes ‘In A Mirror Darkly’ slightly less enjoyable than its predecessor are its relatively short length and the fact that ‘Wanderer On The Edge Of Time’ had a stronger, rounded off ending. Okay, the album’s artwork has a somewhat cheap feel, but be sure to not judge this one by its cover. Like ‘Wanderer On The Edge Of Time’ before it, ‘In A Mirror Darkly’ is a masterpiece of interesting Thrash Metal and a possible contentor for the album of the year. The compositions are amazing, the production is perfect and you discover something new every spin. This is not an album for this throw-away music era and that’s exactly what makes it so good.

Recommended tracks: ‘Inside The Outside Of The Outside’, ‘Hindsight Bias’, ‘The Silver In God’s Eye’

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