Tuesday, March 16, 2010

LUDICRA "THE TENANT" (Profound Lore)

More than any other band operating, Ludicra deserves to be elevated beyond the "black metal" tag. While the elements were certainly there in abundance on their first record they've steadily tread further away from the limitations of the genre and crafted a sound uniquely their own, referencing other bands but always redefining their own niche in metal. "The Tenant" sees them progressing even further, landing somewhere between Ved Buens Ende and the more stately chamber dynamics of fellow Bay Area avant-garders Worm of Ouroborous and Amber Asylum. And of course Iron Maiden.
John Cobbett's compositional hand shows all over "The Tenant"; this is an album that completely basks in the indulgent resplendence of guitar. Most of these songs feature classically metal solos and tons of harmonzied riffing-on some tracks the guitars break into intricate three part harmonzing, without any regards to the fact that such sounds can't be replicated live. The main concern is the depth of the music. Ludicra have become masters of complexity without alienation. They've found the very fine line between progressive and epic heavy metal and straddle it without fear, never falling to the depths of wankery or elitisim but always challenging the listener with riffs and structures that you wouldn't have imagined possible within their chosen genre (another reason why they should move beyond mere black metal-they're constantly pushing the boundary ever outward.)
Cobbett's years spent amongst the Hammers of Misfortune are on obvious display. Moreso than any previous Ludicra release this album boasts an extensive knowledge of metal as an art and incorporates those elements into the sound flawlessly. As stated, harmonies and guitar solos abound but on "The Tenant" we also find on new focus on vocal textures; several songs feature choral vocals and there is a stronger emphasis on Laurie's clean singing here, adding a richer dimension to the music while referencing Cobbett's earlier work with the Hammers. Like i said when reviewing Skullflower's "Strange Keys..."-self-cannibalization is normally something an artist would want to avoid, unless the vision is so singular that present and past fuse into one. Such is the case with Cobbett. This is more the work of heavy metal choosing to channel itself through one hand; in that sense Ludicra's achievement is rendered even more epic and grandiose. The album is far from unhinged, nor is it chaotic and blazing like some of their Bay Area black metal brethren-instead there is an economy and control on display, despite the fact that most of these songs top six minutes. And it's not all "metal"; other references peek through the obsidian murk as well. The massive riffing midway into "The Undercaste" reminds me heavily of John Carpenter's eerie, repetitive synth work while the arpeggios and acoustic guitars found in "Stagnant Pond" and "In Stable" are as reminiscent of Espers and Comus as they are Ulver. "Clean White Void" seems equally indebted to "Pleaser" era Harvey Milk and latter day Dead Kennedys. It's a volatile churning mix of incorporation, but Ludicra pull it off.
Metal needs more artists that are actually able to grow without losing relevancy. Ludicra are one of precious few who achieve that distinction, and the fact that they're doing it within a genre as critically narrowed as black metal speaks volumes to their talent and vision. "The Tenant" is an excellent album by modern black metal measurements-it's an even better album when measured against the distance of metal as a whole. Highly recommended.

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