Our metal scene has become something of a treasure trove of atmospheric black metal bands over the past few years. Bands like Enthauptung (Buffalo), Sertraline (Buffalo) and Mavradoxa (Rochester) are at the forefront of a growing movement of truly inspirational, nature driven music, fueled by dark, foreboding atmospheres. Mavradoxa’s 2nd album, Lethean Lament, is no exception to these standards.
When we last discussed this band, we took a long look at their debut, Sojourners, hailing it as a fantastic journey through the ominous, where one cannot help but be mentally transported to a darkened withering wilderness, where all life fades, but where new life readily emerges in the wake of great decay. Mavradoxa’s latest musical triumph, Lethean Lament is the perfect followup to its predecessor in this regard- taking an even longer and more in depth look into these themes and emotional conveyances. With certain tracks ranging from 11 minutes to almost 18 minutes in length, there’s never a moment on this release where avid listeners of this genre will feel cheated or misled. In all truthfulness, if you are one that enjoys getting lost in music such as this, then this will be a very important album for you.
Lethean Lament kicks off with “Cicadan”- a pleasant almost 4 minute introduction to the record. Our journey begins with soothing acoustic guitars, along with a classical string arrangement that’s perfectly designed for the waters you are about to tread. Fans of Tristania during the Beyond the Veil era will especially appreciate this.
Track 2, “The Phantom Visages”, presents a nice slow, dragged out progression of thunderous chord progressions and drums, tasteful guitar harmonies, and great harsh vocals in the higher register (textbook black metal rasps). Both the tempos and note spacing on this track are great noteworthy choices by the band- really allowing the music to breathe easily as the album truly begins.
Track 3, “Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame” was the first “single” I heard from this album. I’m putting “single” in quotes because the song is nearly 18 minutes long. During those 18 minutes, the listener is treated to an amazing variety of instrumentation and vibes. “Crimson Waves” hits you with such a spread of emotion, that it could easily be an EP all its own. The dynamics transpiring between the acoustic guitars, electric clean/distorted guitars, clean vocals, harsh vocals and the rhythm section are admirable to say the least. I plan on listening to both this album and Sojourners a lot once the autumn season returns. In my humble opinion, Mavradoxa is one of the few bands of this genre I’ve heard, that truly capture the essence of the natural world and the changing of seasons through their music.
Throughout this entire record, guitarist/vocalist “Nival”‘s lead guitar melodies are by far the driving hooks that set Mavradoxa apart from the pack. Typically, when listening to bands like this (and Mavradoxa even lists a few of these as influences), people often bring up Agalloch, Obsidian Tongue or on the more extreme end of the spectrum, Dissection or Wolves in the Throne Room. However, when it comes to Mavradoxa, I can’t stop comparing them to older Tristania. So many of this band’s sad sounding chord progressions, catchy epic leads and overall song structures take me back to Tristania’s earlier years in Norway, back in the late ’90s/early 2000s- the albums Beyond the Veil and World of Glass specifically, if anyone is familiar.
Lethean Lament is also a great album for tasteful guitar effects. Track 4, “Across the Nival Grove” has some great chorus/reverb/delay in the intro, paving the way for another strong drum performance by “Lux”, accompanied by some of the heaviest riffs on the album. The clean/harsh vocal ranges within this band are tremendous and need ultimate recognition. Many people write off black metal as a one trick pony when it comes to vocals. Mavradoxa once again set themselves apart from the pack in this regard.
Track 5, “From Fog”, sets up a big finish for the album, with some aggressive harmonized tremolo picking in the intro, raising the bar tempo wise, then proceeds with 10-11 minutes of more of the band’s overall delightful talents you will have come to expect by this point. The catchy trems are what make this song and really prepare the listener for an epic album conclusion.
Finally, we’ve come to “Metanoia”- a mere 2 minute outro. This is another triumph in and of itself, taking us out of the album with beautifully layered clean guitars. I’d like to think this is the band’s way of saying, “If you liked this, just wait for the next album.”
So, there you have it. Lethean Lament is yet another victory for our local metal scene, as well as this entire genre in general. Take a listen to “Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame” below, if you don’t believe me. Yes, it’s worth 18 minutes of your life.
Nival – Strings, Voice
Lux – Percussion, Voice
Lethean Lament is to be released on Hypnotic Dirge Records today, June 22, 2017.