Mekong Delta – In A Mirror Darkly
Reviewed by Kylie McInnes
On this week’s episode of “Will It Blend?”, we’re going to take Rush’s seminal 1978 progressive rock classic, Hemispheres, and Coroner’s 1989 tech-thrash masterpiece, No More Color. Ok, stand back, here we go! [Loud crashing noises, lightning crashes from the heavens, maniacal laughter ensues, wicked explosion, Kylie disappears in a cloud of smoke and flames, and later awakes in a daze amidst a pile of smoldering rubble]
Did anyone get the license plate off that truck? Normally my science experiments go more as I’d expect them to go. Hey, what do we have here? [Kylie looks at the album that has magically appeared, and is astonished that she is living some weird Dungeons & Dragons-esque daydream]. Actually, I’ve been a casual fan of Germany’s Mekong Delta for quite some time, but never really followed them or dug beyond their albums The Music Of Erich Zann and Dances Of Death (And Other Walking Shadows). In A Mirror Darkly certainly doesn’t disappoint; it’s what I expected in terms of being a fine slab of complex, progressive, and technical thrash metal. Interestingly enough, there are neither “short” songs (nothing is under five-and-a-half-minutes), nor anything particularly “long” (“Introduction+Ouverture” is the longest at just over 7 minutes). While every track is about the same length, there is variety enough here for days.
“Introduction+Ouverture” is the enigmatically titled opener, starting with a beautiful classical guitar piece before erupting into a furious tech-thrash riff-fest showcasing the instrumental prowess of bassist Ralf Hubert, guitarist Erik Grösch, and drummer Alex Landenburg (yes, the same Alex Landenburg from Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody). “The Armageddon Machine” opens right into a verse for our first taste of Martin LeMar’s vocals (which are totally different from earlier vocalists Kiel and Doug Lee). There are neck-jarring riffs and schizophrenic time signature changes strewn about everywhere with a great not-quite-harsh vocal delivery.
Moving right along, “The Sliver In Gods Eye” is an eerie ballad with a strange heavy feel, almost doom-like (or, at the very least, a sense of doom presides over the track). “Janus” picks the tempo back up into another bizarre and wonderful thrasher. “Inside The Outside Of The Inside” is another instrumental track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Dream Theater Makes A Good Heavy Album album. I love the guitar melodies here, along with the drumming, and this is probably the highlight of the album (which isn’t a small feat).
“Hindsight Bias” and “Mutant Messiah” close out the album with more proggy thrash, and the latter gives me the most “Rush-like” vibes on the album (I sense a lot of shades of “Natural Science” here without any riff-poaching). In A Mirror Darkly is one of those rare “prog” albums that I can totally enjoy as something “not prog.” There’s enough complexity here to satisfy even the biggest prog snobs of them all. Well, other than the “It’s a 40 minute commute to work, so I can’t even finish a single song!” 1st world problems-progheads. However, it’s the thrash riffs that I can’t help but fall in love with. There are enough riffs to double the track list on a not-prog release if they went that direction. Thankfully, however, Mekong Delta is what Mekong Delta is. If you’re into Watchtower or the aforementioned Coroner, and also like your progressive rock and metal, Mekong Delta should be on your list, no excuses. But before you check it out, could you give me a neck rub after all this headbanging and thrashing?
4.5 // 5