It’s pretty much a given that if you count yourself as an OPETH fan that you are then also, by default, a PORCUPINE TREE fan. Well, if the mention of any of the above names has you salivating from the ears then I can you having a fucking ball with the little known Swedish band LAVA ENGINE, as they definitely have that modern-ish Prog sound down to a ‘T’. If these guys manage to get marketed right (God, I hate using that term) and maybe end up snagging a support slot on a tour or fest featuring any of the abovementioned bands I’m sure they’ll win rave reviews and get opened up to a larger fan base.
They lack that element of aggression and darkness that make up a good portion of OPETH’s sound. But these guys do a damn fine job of emulating said band’s more pensive moments, and I’d say that “In Limbo” (their second demo) sounds like very confident and professionally executed amalgamation of the sound and themes OPETH explored on the “Still Life”, “Deliverance” and “Damnation” albums. The PORCUPINE TREE influence comes through in terms of the vocals, while there’s also a whiff of VANDEN PLAS present in some of the harmonic arrangements here and there.
The balance between light and shade is deftly handled throughout, with every demure vocal or melodic passage usually followed by a relatively more upbeat and intense section. Opener “Drain Your Soul” is a great example of this, and I love the way that pounding main riff (reminiscent of “In Absentia” era PT) segues smoothly into a nice and laid-back “Damnation”-esque dirge. They are perhaps guilty of borrowing a little too liberally from the Mikael Akerfeldt well of ideas on the title track, though, as that part at 4:17 is lifted wholesale from a song on “Deliverance” (I can’t put my finger on it right now and I’m not gonna re-listen to the entire album to find it, but you’ll instantly recognise it when you hear it...sorry). But this is a rather minor gripe when the overall quality of the demo is concerned, and believe me there is a lot of quality on here. The catchy choruses of “Common Ground” and “Windows Closed”, the crunchy groove of the main riff found in the latter, and the surprisingly twisted vibe going on in the curiously titled “Ctrl Z” (those harsh vocals sound suspiciously like those of TODAY IS THE DAY’s Steve Austin...).
I can see “In Limbo” being the perfect soundtrack to a long train ride on a wintry day or just a stroll through the streets in overcast conditions. It’s definitely not a “happy” listen but the overall vibe isn’t quite as downtrodden and bleak either. Everything from the instrumentation to the cover art to the production job is spot on, and I really do hope that these guys make a bit of a splash with their music. They’re certainly talented enough.
(Online February 24, 2011)