Mekong Delta – In a Mirror Darkly

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Aarrg Records

Review by Rick (“The Fish-Man”) Ossian

To begin with, we should probably note that these fellows are from Germany.  All comparisons to other German/Scandinavian/European metal perfunctorily end there.  These cats are heavy, proggy, metal-ly (is that even a word?), classically-trained, incredible musicians.  They can be delicate and introspective at times, growly and melodically barbaric by turns — all in the space of the same song, even!  Mekong Delta boasts the incomparable Martin LeMar on vocals, the undeniably staccato brilliance of Ralph Hubert (bass & concert guitars), Benedict Zimniak and Erik Adams on all other guitars, evidently, and the peerless percussion of drummer Alex Landenberg.  Collectively, they form one of the most deftly capable heavy progressive metal bands of my recent list…the list, of course, being of bands I NEED to ‘discover’, as it were.  In other words, I am going to delve headlong into their back catalogue to see what other treasures I will most certainly happen upon!!

Take the opening epic (that word IS getting stale, isn’t it?), for example. You would think from its title alone that this is just a regular war song. After all, we ARE talking about The Armageddon Machine, here.  It is not ONLY a ‘war’ song, however.  There are several subtle nuances throughout.  I imagine it just depends on the sort of listener you are!  Then there is the follow-up to that number, Hindsight Bias.  There are so many tempo changes in here, I could easily imagine Metallica or Dream Theater standing by slack-jawed as they observe them from the side of the stage at their next gig.  At 5:24, it is the shortest tune on display here, but it is by no means a dud.  As I mentioned before, just try to keep track of the musical/melodic/chop changes, if you will.  I can also easily picture the arranger of the tune pulling their hair out!

On Inside the Outside of the Inside, we are treated to an instrumental of uncanny brilliance.  It is as if the drummer and the others are inevitably out to ‘outdo’ the others, as it were.  They slam along as if hell-bent on some breakneck hot rail to an incendiary destination! The drummer, from what I can tell, is probably the busiest of all. After all, there is only ONE of him, and THREE guitarist, if you count Ralph (bass) Hubert, and I most certainly do!

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Janus, sporting one HELL of a lovely riff, is about the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, according to Miriam.  So, a track about the fairy gods of thrash/prog metal, you say? But, Rick, you say, it’s all been done before — but NOT like this! Again, try to keep track of the stops, starts and turns, if you dare.  It is very much progressive metal in the vein of, erm, Mekong Delta! Nobody else really comes to mind, to be perfectly honest. At the halfway point (3:30 or so), we are treated to the sheer madness of a tinkly, creepy piano accompanied only by vocalist extraordinaire LeMar.  Who else does that?

Mutant Messiah is double-time speed slam and thrash vocals right out of the box.  I was distinctly reminded of Anthrax for a stray moment here and there, but other than that, no comparison whatsoever comes to mind.

Introduction and Ouverture is almost exactly the same length as its predecessors (both clock in at just over seven minutes), but the two tracks are similar in nature. I & 0 is a prog/metal/thrash melee derivative of Queensrÿche and any of the Big 4 thrash monsters (if you don’t know who those blokes are by now, just ask your favourite metalhead and they will fill you in).

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The closing number, The Silver in God’s Eye, is a different sort of beast all together.  It begins with tribal drums, violins and vocals.  Then in comes a piano and sparely plucked guitar.  Then the creepy backing vocals.  After that, Martin clearly takes over with his incredible range. It is also NOT your typical thrash/progressive metal tune, per se.  It is of its own ilk, if you will. At about the two-and-a-half minute mark, things begin to get even more intense.  As you can see, I have found yet another new fave!

Full marks!

*****/5

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