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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Mekong Delta

The Music of Erich Zann

Review by Gary Hill

Germany's Mekong Delta has recently reformed and that seems as good a reason as any to have a look back at this killer album. The group have their own type of thrashing progressive metal that in many ways was far ahead of its time. The disc is a concept album based loosely around the H.P. Lovecraft story by the same name. The concept seems for the most part to revolve around the music's power to save the world from the monsters (in this case both literal and figurative) that threaten it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Age of Agony
This metal screamer combines a classically oriented, but still almost chaotic sound with the metal core. The main character of the H.P. Lovecraft story plays violin, so it seems appropriate that this track also features that instrument. The textures of the cut are heavy and frantic, but also melodic and quite tasty. The chorus of the song seems to set the tone for the entire journey on which the album will take the listener.
True Lies
This starts with a swirling violin, but then the band launch into a frantic, but very technical sort of jam. This one has vocals that at times call to mind King Diamond a bit. There are some exceptionally wild forays of instrumental fury and the vocal arrangement is far from the usual heavy metal fare. This one is quite dynamic, moving through a large number of killer changes in its course. The slowed down segment later, with its waves of tasty guitar soloing and violin over the top is one of my favorites. It has a swirling sort of grind texture to it that really works well. A later segment is both a bit psychotic in texture and also rather prog like with soaring vocals and multiple layers creating a dense and quite powerfully unique texture. This drops to just radio noise and some ambient music to finish.
Confessions of Madness
This has a sound as it starts that calls to mind Ride The Lightning era Metallica a bit, but the vocals almost feel more like Megadeth at times. This is the most straightforward metal tune on show thus far. A short drop back to atmospheric tones, though gives way to a killer frantic instrumental section that is nothing close to ordinary.
Hatered
A spoken rant starts this one before the band launch into more frantic metal. This time the mode seems even faster than before driven by some super quick drumming and short quick bursts of vocals. This thing was made for the mosh pit! An off-kilter and unusual sounding guitar solo is a nice touch. Then the cut fires out into an explosive display of virtuosic abandon in an instrumental break that's both neo-classical and incredibly crunchy and frantic. They launch back into the super fast territory to carry it forward from there and eventually end. The shouted "hate, hate, hate" in the outro is quite effective.
Interludium (Begging For Mercy)
This is an intriguing instrumental. It starts with an acoustic classically tinged guitar introduction. This carries forward with increasing levels of complexity for a time, then a classical instrument segment that seems to combine elements of the soundtrack to both "Psycho" and the movie "Reanimator" takes the piece into its next section. These elements merge with metal guitar in a very complex arrangement that has some definite chaotic textures. This one is very classical music dominated, but still has enough metal meat to please fans of the genre. This one is one of the more intriguing marriages of the two styles to be produced. It is exceptionally powerful and more than just a little creepy.
Prophecy
This one screams in with more metal fury. The lyrics seem to be a call to pull the listener into the work of the group in protective duties. "Before the night is over / You'll be initiated, too / You are elected for the world / You must be prepared when the time will come / Listen to the prophecy now / You're given from the Great Old Ones / The music in your hands is bastion." As the song carries forward more violin is laced over the top of the frantic metal jamming. This is another very tasty heavy metal cut.
Memories of Tomorrow
Atmospheric sounds start this and eventually it begins to grow feeling very much like progressive rock or fusion. Then it pounds out into a new metal structure that has some great textures. This one feels at times just a bit like Queensryche, but there are a lot of other sounds here. Really it's a prime example of how this band can take sounds that come from a myriad of sources and merge them into a musical tapestry that is uniquely their own. They move it through a number of intriguing changes and show off their musicality throughout, while still inspiring heads to bang furiously. At times this one comes across as a heavy metal King Crimson. This is another which shows off an unusual vocal arrangement. Some of the guitar riffs on this one are simply priceless. The closing segment comes as close to modern Crimson as anything on this album.
I, King Will Come
This one begins with a distant and very quiet sound. Slowly a metal dirge begins to rise from this backdrop, eventually coming full to the fore. The slowest metal number on show here, this one is a bit odd in texture and tone, but calls to mind some of the more creative of modern epic metal - and it was recorded in the 1980's! This grind is a nice change of pace on a disc that really doesn't suffer at all from a lack of variety. There are some killer guitar sounds to be found on this composition. It again turns rather chaotic at times.
The Final Deluge
They don't waste any time jumping in this time, coming in with a fast paced, rubbery sort of hard-edged jam. More fiery guitar soloing comes over the top of this to create the rest of the introduction. Then they launch into another frantic metallic rocker that really scorches. This again turns later into progressive rock like changes and progressions. It is another that's incredibly dynamic and features guitar soloing that feels like violin at times, although it isn't. It also has a lot more of those King Crimson-like tendencies.
Epilogue
This song is not really metal, but more sedate progressive rock. Lyrically it seems to describe the frustration at the difficulty of the appointed task of protecting mankind from the terrors that they face. The vocals are almost like something from Sting's solo career, as is the general musical tone. Elements of horrifying darkness, though, are also included. "With tired eyes too sore to rest / I feel so cold inside…Through the old window / From out of space / He must have seen it / Long time ago / I ran away from / The Rue D'Ausil / Where he banned our downfall / In other dimensions / And he gave his life away for the world to live on / What have we learned / Nothing has changed…" For those who are not familiar with the story, the window which Zann played his protective symphony was located on Rue D'Ausil.
Gnome
The final cut is another that shows off lots of varying textures. It starts with more thrashy metal sounds, but then alternates into a more progressive rock oriented texture to carry forward. Then they launch out into a series of metal-based thematic changes. The changes on the song are far more progressive rock (in the vein of Djam Karet and King Crimson) oriented, but the guitar sound and attack is all metal. This instrumental is powerful, shows off an inspired sense of musicality and is a great conclusion to the disc. A short reprise of the more prog oriented sounds gives way to a final burst of the metal fury.
 
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