Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mekong Delta - Lurking Fear (2007)

It has not proven uncommon for the lesser known Germanic thrash patrols of the 80s to emerge renewed in the 21st century, but of all of them, Mekong Delta has made the boldest showing. Lurking Fear is a superb album through and through, and surprisingly their most aggressive and best produced. That Ralph Hubert has pulled this off after over a decade of absence, with an entirely new lineup, is akin to a miracle, but perhaps we should not be surprised that a composer of this level was capable of such an immaculate return to prominence. The boys he's brought on board for this record are no slouches themselves: veteran skinbasher Uli Kusch of Helloween, Masterplan, Gamma Ray and numerous others, including Mekong Delta in the late 80s; prog thrash and death guitar wizard Peter Lake of Theory in Practice; and last, but certainly not least, Leszek Szpigiel, the phenomenal shrieker who had done time in Wolf Spider, Scanner and Crows.

What could have stopped such a rogues' gallery from delivering the schizophrenic manhandling the Mekong Delta worshiper had so long craved? Answer: absolutely nothing. Lurking Fear is a mesmerizing outburst of intelligent, punishing tech thrash, the best album since 1989's opus The Principle of Doubt. Actually, fuck it. I'm going one further. This is the best album the band has ever recorded, so it's sort of a shame that this lineup could only be retained for just the one. It drags you into the same labyrinth of clinical, bewildering emotions that the band offered in their heyday, but with far higher values in production and an even stronger bond of songwriting than they had brought to bear on The Music of Erich Zahn or the s/t debut. Hubert has not entirely abandon the classical inclinations here, there are some orchestra instrumental covers like "Allegro" found scattered through the vocal tracks, but it's all so much more frenzied and cohesive. The album is a stunner from front to back, and if I've any complaint is that it's so fresh from the asylum that it's likely to induce paranoia. The title is truth in advertising.

Szpigiel is the perfect vehicle to pilot this whirlwind of riffing and ideas, and I always thought he might be, superior to both Wolfgang Borgmann and Doug Lee. He layers a number of higher pitched tones into some of the passages to create a hallucinogenic menace, but I also enjoy how they'll offset this with simple, percussive gang shouts (i.e. "Rules of Corruption"). The guitars are fucking insanity, just as cyclical, structured and hypnotic a beating as you'd find on any of the Theory in Practice full-lengths, and Kusch has given himself his best workout in many years. Through it all, you can hear Hubert's impeccable, low-end haunting presence and he sits back and grins at the genius he has assembled in one place. There are no stinkers on this entire album, though I heavily favor the vortexes of "Society in Dissolution", "Rules of Corruption" and "Immortal Hate (Accepting Prayers of Supremacy)", which frankly throttled my mind into the next dimension. Then again, who can resist "Moderato", in which the band incorporates familiar theatrical themes from Predator, the 'Imperial March', and others into frenetic metal symphony.

Yes, despite the band's intellect thrashing stimuli they somehow find the time to remember the 'fun' that steadied hands can have with the genre, and ultimately it all contributes to such a total package that just about every sorely lacking retro thrash outfit trying to peddle stolen dreams can go suckle their thumbs and weep. If only more artists were writing albums of this caliber, we could probably send civilization to the stars a few centuries ahead of the scheduled date, which is at this point looking like never.

Verdict: Epic Win [9/10] (inside nothing real)

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