Mekong Delta: Dark Materials

Mysterious thrash legends return...

It’s the hoped-for complex and ambitious album, and of course we wouldn’t have accepted anything less from Mekong Delta. Like few other contemporary groups, the German progressive thrash metal band surrounding mastermind and bassist Ralf Hubert continues to stand for innovation and independence in 2014.

All those looking for pure mainstream or mediocre muzak have to look elsewhere – Mekong Delta score again with their intelligence, unwillingness to compromise and courage. Their new album is called In A Mirror Darkly and picks up thematically where its 2010 predecessor Wanderer On The Edge Of Time left off. “For me, music doesn’t start with A and end with Z, it’s an ongoing process,” Ralf Hubert explains. “In this respect, you could call In A Mirror Darkly the continuation of the Wanderer... theme, but it’s no copy, it’s an independent recording. Each Mekong album sounds unique and forward-looking in the original sense of the term. As a composer, I consciously allow myself to drift to be able to consistently explore new horizons.”

Martin LeMar (vocals), Ralf Hubert (bass, classical guitar), Erik Adam H. Grösch (guitar) and Alex Landenburg (drums) have recorded a total of eight songs for In A Mirror Darkly, among them three instrumental numbers like the classical guitar intro or the ingenious Inside The Outside Of The Inside with its diverse arrangements. “Typically Mekong Delta, the new numbers all have a playing time of between five and seven minutes. As far as I am concerned, that’s just the right time frame to gain sufficient stylistic depth without pushing the envelope or creating artistic ambiguities,” band founder Ralf Hubert explains the initial parameters of the new album. “I feel that we’ve once again found the right mix of complexity and uninterrupted leitmotiv.” Hubert is referring to up-tempo tracks such as Hindsight Bias with its brute theme in its middle part and ingenious use of a triton. The Armageddon Machine, on which frontman Martin LeMar delivers a catchy melody over a background of cacophonous Spanish rhythms, lending the song a surprising pop music element, sees Mekong Delta get down to business in a similarly fast-paced and thoroughly complex style. The instrumental tracks Ouverture and Inside The Outside Of The Inside with their diverse arrangements showcase Mekong Delta’s uptempo skills. These fast numbers contrast with two purposely slow songs entitled The Sliver in Gods Eye and Janus. On Janus, Hubert & Co. tell the story of the same-named Roman god, a creature usually depicted as having two faces and a symbol of beginnings and endings, gates, doors and passages. Mekong Delta refer to the different characteristics of creatures and their associated unpredictability. Orientation and atmosphere of The Sliver in Gods Eye bring to mind A Certain Fool (Le Fou) from Wanderer On The Edge Of Time and critically question mankind’s obvious bigotry. Hubert: “Or you could simply put it this way: why do people have to be so stupid?”

Mekong Delta recorded their latest oeuvre at the band members’ respective studios. In A Mirror Darkly was produced by Ralf Hubert, the spectacular cover artwork is borrowed from an animation created for the album. Hubert: “The new material is a little more loosely knit than on Wanderer On The Edge Of Time and only partly connected by little interludes.” So it’s obvious: the high artistic standards that Hubert has set for himself and his band are also reflected in terms of his music’s themes and stylistic direction. For almost thirty years, Mekong Delta have enjoyed an excellent reputation as an independent and exceptionally creative band in the world of progressive metal sounds. Albums such as The Music Of Eric Zann (1988) and Pictures At An Exhibition (1997) are considered classics of their kind. With their blend of prog metal, classical elements and thrash, the musicians are considered pioneers of a stylistic mix which has been emulated by a considerable number of epigones. There can be no doubt: In A Mirror Darkly fits in perfectly with this list of influential albums.