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Lotus Thief - Oresteia CD (album) cover

ORESTEIA

Lotus Thief

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.00 | 1 ratings

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TCat
4 stars Lotus Thief was founded in 2012 and hail from San Francisco. Their 3rd album "Oresteia" was released in January of 2020, and, as were their last two albums, base their music around classic works, usually ones that deal with dark subjects. On "Oresteia", the subject is based on a trilogy of plays written by Aeschylus which deal with the return, murder and downfall of house Atreaus and its king Agamemnon. This dense subject matter is covered in 8 tracks with a short run time of almost 40 minutes, yet the music and ambience of the album cover it quite well. The album also comes in a 2 CD "Luxus" version which features 3 bonus tracks. These are ambient remixes of 3 tracks from the album, and this brings the run time up to over an hour.

The band uses the genre of black and doom metal as a foundation, yet they throw in a lot of ambient textures making the music also take on dark folk elements, almost giving it a gothic sound. On this album, the vocals are much clearer, not so buried in whispers and fuzz, but up front. However, there is still a use of unearthly growls and screams throughout, usually buried deep within the dark texture of the music.

Interestingly enough, there are only two musicians that create the music on this album, most of the work done by the lead who calls herself Bezaelith. On this album, she provides vocals, guitars, bass and synthesizers. The only thing she doesn't play are the drums, who are performed by Otrebor (real name is Roberto Martinelli). When the band tours, however, they tour as a 5-piece ensemble.

Starting with the track "Agamemnon" (8:02), the music is quite atmospheric, the dark textures mixing with the mysterious ambience as layers of sound surround you. It is heavy, but it is also clean and strangely soft, with Bezaelith's vocals drawing you in. Her voice is excellent, deep yet not as heavy as you would expect. The track stays somewhere between ambient and moody melodic passages, with occasional outbursts of emotion felt in her subdued screams. It all comes across quite beautiful, but definitely thick. "Banishment" (2:13) follows as a transitory track with a dark drone that increases in volume. This moves into the track "Libabtion Bearers" (8:16) which is the name of the 2nd play that the music is based on. It begins with layers of atmospheric guitar and synth darkness, but after a few minutes, the clears and becomes quite melodic as a percussive pattern slowly builds up while vocals continue, then a sudden heaviness and intensity turn the music into a more metallic feel. The music varies back and forth, soft to heavy, and counter melodies harmonize against each other in the layered vocals. The moderately slow beat keeps building intensity, and Bezaelith's epic vocals seem to fill the hallways of an ancient castle that is doomed to fall. This is all about dynamics, and the use of them on this album is quite amazing, all of the clean and screaming vocals merited by the story and the softer dark folk elements mix so well with the heavier black metal elements. It's all quite impressive.

"Woe" (3:16) uses layers of atmospheric textures to help transport the listener to the dark realms of the subject matter. Most of the tonal drone-like sound here seems to be done by synths, but it all remains ambient and mysterious which is enhanced by subdued drums. "The Furies" (6:47) opens up the buried sound from the previous track, and then develops it, and layered vocals are later added. The vocals continue to be beautiful, but also continue to teeter on the brink of sanity, and each time the music slips over to the heavier side you wonder if there is ever any going back, yet somehow, it always comes back to lovely melodic passages that also work to build the drama and emotion. As it nears the middle, things get really wild and chaotic as the drums and guitars push it to the limit and then screams actually end up bringing it back to its original ambient state and the music continues to teeter back and forth.

The next track "Reverence" (0:54) here works as another transitory track, hardly even noticeable, yet on the Luxus edition, is expanded to over 5 minutes. It is full of pensive dissonance and echoing emptiness, which only gets amplified in the bonus track ambient cut. In the main album, however, it simply leads us into "Sister in Silence" (5:58) which fades in on some violins that might remind one of something from "Godspeed You! Black Emperor". As it increases, synths pull the music out of the darkness and more vocals backed by an even rhythm come in. This one builds to a nice, majestic guitar backing that suddenly moves to a dissonant and loud section that really sneaks up on you. Wow. Once that passes, you are almost left breathless, but the violins come back in to reign in the sound and more vocals follow. The main album ends with "The Kindly Ones" (2:54) which is a nice atmospheric vocal backed by layered echoes and textures that leave you wanting more.

This album is one of the best examples I have heard in the attempt to meld ambience with doom metal while maintaining the folk element throughout. The dynamics are so well executed, that sometimes you can move from peacefulness to chaos and you sit there wondering how that all happened so smoothly. This could have been a perfect album except for one thing, it is too short. The subject matter could have been explored so much further. But the music you do get here is excellent and it almost makes you want to overlook that flaw. However, I can't get over the fact that you are left with the feeling that it gets over way too quickly, and that is the only thing keeping it from being 5 stars. Lovers of dark ambient black metal should listen to this though, because this is how it should be done, with attention given to smooth transitions and an amazing use of dynamics, incorporating the beautiful and the harsh into the telling of the story. Excellent album!

TCat | 4/5 |

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