Mekong Delta - In a Mirror Darkly - (9.5/10)
Published on April 10, 2014
While the German progressive thrash troupe Mekong Delta had an eleven year silence between full lengths with 1996’s Pictures at an Exhibition and 2007’s Lurking Fear, it’s evident, by now, that the resurgence wasn’t just a short standing trip down memory lane. 2014 brings the band’s fourth full length album since their return in 2007 (and eleventh overall), In a Mirror Darkly. Mekong Delta has always been one of those bands hovering between the absurdly technical and the amazingly melodic. Many bands go for clinical either precision by eschewing melody or the other way around, but Mekong Delta has been traversing that gap since their formation in 1985.
Continuing to juxtapose classically inspired guitar acrobatics with progressive structures and thrashing rhythm section, Mekong Delta strive forth into new territory with In a Mirror Darkly. That’s not saying this is divergently different than any of the Delta’s previous albums, because, if anything, this is continuation of their sound, but, once again, it’s elevated onto a new plane. Ralf Hubert, the mastermind behind Mekong Delta, stated that the concepts on In a Mirror Darkly are a continuation of the themes presented during their previous full length, Wanderer on the Edge of Time, but even he cautioned that this is not the same album. Traces of Mekong Delta’s previous work can be found throughout: in the melodic balladry at the beginning of “The Silver in God’s Eye”; in the blistering and fiery yet precisely progressive rhythms during “Mutant Messiah”; and in the awe inspiring, classically influenced lead guitar runs during “Inside the Outside of the Inside”.
The key to Mekong Delta’s sound being so overwhelmingly brilliant is their ability to smoothly transition from these metallic classical recitals into gut busting thrash metal into virulent heavy metal anthems, leaving no trace behind. It’s good to see that after (almost) thirty years of thrashing, these guys still get it. It’s not a play-it-safe kind of album. In a Mirror Darkly hearkens to the band’s past without copying what they’ve done. Mekong Delta has always effectively combined what I love about thrash and progressive metal and always weeded out most of what I hated. In a Mirror Darkly boasts some of the tightest drum rolls and double kicks I’ve ever heard and plenty of guitar lines that will make your jaw drop. While I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Delta’s first two vocalists, Wolfgang “Keil” Borgman and Doug Lee, Martin LeMar has definitely earned his right to front one of the planet’s tightest acts. LeMar’s layered vocal approach embodies the range of Crimson Glory’s late Midnight with touches of the wailing, air raid style of Bruce Dickinson. He has a smooth delivery that is powerful, emotive and still allows the instruments to shine through.
In a Mirror Darkly is a true testament to the songwriting abilities of Ralf Hubert and crew. Nearly thirty years after their formation Mekong Delta is as potent and virulent as ever. I must say, though, that like the rest of Mekong Delta’s growing catalog, I find myself yearning for the sections that showcase the band’s ability to play frenetic, technical classical music through a heavy metal lens. This doesn’t mean that the band’s progressive thrashing and more mellow segments aren’t good, it’s just that when I want to listen to Mekong Delta I was to hear mind blowing classical inspired progressive thrash. In a Mirror Darkly will not disappoint fans of Vektor, Watchtower and Voivod, because, despite the band’s constant leaning towards the classical side of things, this is still a thrashing beast of an album: heavy and beyond tight. This is an album firmly plants Mekong Delta into the master class of metal bands.