For nigh on approaching 30 years, Mekong Delta progenitor and leader Ralph Hubert has not been afraid to explore the interconnections between classical music and extreme metal in a way in which has not been attempted since the first wave of overblown prog rock bands away back in the early 1970s… (OK, ELP et al didn’t do death metal, but you get where we’re coming from, right?).
And this tenth release certainly sees the Teutons pushing and bending the boundaries between the two musical formats to even more elastic effect.
Unusually for an album in this genre, ‘In A Mirror…’ kicks off with two instrumental tracks – the acoustic, Spanish-tinged picking of ‘Introduction’ and the more technical and complex ‘Ouvreture’, which not only reflects (in the best classical tradition) the themes to come later in the oeuvre (sic) but also segues naturally into ‘The Armageddon Machine’, the sort of thrash-edged progressive rock epic which has become the Delta trademark – hurtling along at the pell-mell speed of a peloton on the home straight yet delicately and eloquently layered.
‘The Silver In God’s Eye’ on the other hand, while as intense in its complexity, veers much more towards the progressive end of the sphere: it’s longer and more languid, its rich tapestry of sound (which sounds more like a cross between Queensryche and Porcupine Tree than anything produced by any thrash band, ever) characterized by the exquisite vocals of Martin LeMar, who has a delivery as graceful as an albatross but as perceptive as an eagle swooping in behind an unsuspecting dove.
The essential beauty of this opus, however, is how it blends and merges into itself, each track effortlessly and seemlessly blending into the next, picking up the themes, both major and minor, of what has gone before and moving them forward into what is to come. The theme of ‘The Silver…’, for example, moves easily into the complementarily elegant ‘Janus’, which in turn blends into the refined and restrained yet rambunctious third instrumental, the elegant ‘Inside The Outside Of The Outside’, while the mayhemic industrial noise of closer ‘Mutant Messiah’ turns the album back full circle to the opening refrain of ‘Ouvreture’.
The result is a dense and complicated album: one which requires – and, at the same time, deserves – repeated listens to explore its layers and depths and reveal its inner beauty and strength. A stunning piece of work and, in short, a masterpiece of experimentation, ingenuity and musical majesty.
Introduction / Ouvreture / The Armageddon Machine / The Silver In Gods Eye / Janus / Inside The Outside Of The Outside / Hindsight Bias / Mutant Messiah
Recommended listening: ‘The Armageddon Machine’
‘In A Mirror Darkly’ is out now on Steamhammer/SPV.