The perfect fusion of progressive metal and old school thrash
Three years after the release of their comeback album Lurking Fear, which marked the band’s return to the scene after a self-imposed exile of some ten years, long running German progressive thrash metal outfit Mekong Delta are back with ninth studio release Wanderer on the Edge of Time.
A lot has changed within the band in the three years between albums, with bassist/sole founding member Ralph Hubert the only member to remain from the line up that recorded Lurking Fear a mere three years ago. But despite this, Hubert has managed to reconstruct Mekong Delta from the ground up, with Tomorrow’s Eve vocalist Martin ‘LeMar’ Rammel, guitarists Erik ‘Adam H.’ Grösch and Benedikt Zimniak (Ivory Night) and ex-Annihilator/Axxis/At Vance drummer Alex Landenburg making up the members of the band for the better part of the last two years.
While it’s not hard to be sceptical about a Mekong Delta with only one original member in the line-up, and the remaining members having not being given the opportunity to prove their worthiness within the band in the studio, all suspicions and doubt amount to nothing after a single listen to Wanderer on the Edge of Time. Quite simply, while the band’s sound is a little different from what you would normally expect from them, Wanderer on the Edge of Time is an extraordinary album, and certainly one of the more impressive examples of what the progressive thrash scene has to offer.
Unlike the overtly thrash metal sound found on Lurking Fear, Wanderer on the Edge of Time sees Hubert steering Mekong Delta to the more progressive terrain of their earlier releases, with orchestral elements linking the heavier passages within the album. And I might add, with considerable success.
The opening instrumental piece Intro - Concert Guitar pretty much lives up to its name, with the piece a soothing introduction to the album with its classical inspired acoustic guitars. This rather short track eventually builds toward Ouverture, where the band is free to expand on both their progressive direction and flex their metallic muscle. The constant shifts and changes in tempo and riff structures are reminiscent of early Megadeth in places (I’m thinking Into the Lungs of Hell from 1988’s So Far, So Good…So What!), but with more than enough difference to stand as something quite original.
LeMar’s marks his first appearance in the melodic and theatrical A Certain Fool (Le Fou) - Movement 1. Again, while his vocals are somewhat of a departure for the band, his wide ranging vocal abilities adds a whole new progressive dimension to the band’s sound. While the song does demonstrate LeMar’s capability of handling the more melodic and slower material, tracks such as The 5th Element (Le Bateleur) - Movement 2, The Apocalypt - World In Shards (La Maison Dieu - Movement 3 and the fantastic King With Broken Crown (Le Diable) - Movement 4 only further prove his worthiness to master the heavier side of the band’s repertoire, without losing any of the melodic appeal of his vocal performances. But if there’s one track where LeMar really stands out, it has to be the unexpected Affection (L’Amoureux) - Movement 6. Again, Mekong Delta has never before attempted something quite as melodic and straightforward before, but with LeMar out front, the band well and truly pull the song off, without sounding like they’re trying too hard to do something that simply doesn’t fit the direction the band has chosen to take on the remainder of the album.
On the music side of things, the various interludes that bridge the vocal tracks (including the various interjecting Interlude – Group pieces, Intermezzo (instrumental) - Movement 5 and the climatic Finale) are nothing short of pure thrashing perfection. While some are a little on the short side of things, the tracks really do keep the album flowing from one movement to the next, as well as assuring the album has enough aggressive moments to balance out the melodic passages.
Diverse, technically challenging, melodic and hard hitting, Mekong Delta’s latest release Wanderer on the Edge of Time really does have it all.
While some thrash metal fans may find the album a bit of a struggle with its constant change of direction and lack of full-on thrashing from start to finish, those who aren’t afraid to explore the more progressive side of the thrash sound will definitely embrace this album as one of 2010’s truly underrated gems.