Whoever said death or black metal is dying as much as metal is clearly hasn’t taken a gander at the wonderful new acts still coming out of the woodwork. Be it unknown local bands making it through wider audiences due to the advent of streaming services (such as Bandcamp) or old dogs coming up with new tricks, metal is alive and well… and so are its subgenres.
Case in point: Letheria. This little Finnish band is here to brighten up (well… depends on your definition of that) your winter with their first full-length, Death-Principle. While this is their first full-length release, it is not the band’s first as they have three “thematic” (by their own admission EPs out already.
In Death – Principle, Letheria offers some tastefully executed death metal with even tastier ingredients spicing up the mix. What I’m talking about is tasteful, groovy, catchy as all hell riffs, accompanied by surprisingly decipherable growls (that are more akin to harsher thrash vocals than death) and some very nice drumming (dat firecracker snare doeeeeee) and a delectably dark atmosphere, which manages to maintain itself in the absence of lo-fi or overly-polished production.
What comes out is something nice enough that you wonder why you had to wade through album after album of sterile, lifeless, oppressive overzealous compression jobs to begin with.
It is here that I am going to change my routine and go over production first: this album was made with special care. Yes, it was mixed with guitars at the forefront, but the overall sound maintains a very delicate and very nice balance that is pleasant to my ears. It’s raw without being unduly underproduced, it’s powerful enough to stand out but is dynamic enough to maintain a good sound even when going at full tilt (i.e. blast beats.) Oh yes.
Now, back to the music. Death – Principle features more than just death metal. In fact, the music here is mixed in with very subtle influences of the twin banes: black and thrash. Be it the tremolo picking riffs that appear from time to time (Swinelord of Devouring and Fucking, Call of the Horns) or the thrashier riffs that sometimes rear their ugly heads (the opening of Death Hand Path, for example) the blend is a good mix, especially when coupled with stellar songwriting and skillful musicianship. There’s even ghostly traces of heavy metal and just the barest smidge of symphonic elements that sometimes creep into the proceedings. All this help keep the sound, the songs and the albums varied. Just check out The Kingdom In Coffins of Kings and Gods to see what I mean – it has all this and more at its core and does a very good job of starting out, going on a tangent and bringing it home. Hats off, gentlemen.
All this sounds good enough, but none of this would make any sort of impact on anyone in the absence of riffs. It is here that Letheria excel. Death – Principle is filled to the brim with riffs. Be it the ferocious stylings of Swinelord of Devouring and Fucking, the slower and black metal-like pastures of Pestchrist, the thrashier churns of Death Hand Path, the album features some memorable riffs. There is something to remember from every song, even in the first listen and the fact that Letheria managed to avoid losing cohesion by stringing together way too many riffs is worthy of applause. That is an easy trap to fall into, and Letheria avoids it with style.
Of course it’s not all rough and tumble with Letheria, far from it. In fact, Death – Principle manages to craft some very moody moments without having to resort to chaotic lapses into noise, rely on production values or include the bane of my existence, ambient interludes. See, songs like With Tears of Urine You Will Cry His Name, the ferocious opener Inverted Rapture orthe black-metal like darkness induced through death riffs of One Spit of a Thousand Swears manage to touch upon
So, verdict? Death – Principle is good. It suckers you in with promises of riffs, darkness and death goodness, delivers in spades, keeps it at optimum length (45 minutes) and keeps the fires burning. It’s the kind of album that begs for repeated listens, not to uncover some unearthly secret but just for sheer the hell of it. Highly recommended.
M. Pellinen – vocals, guitars
V. Pelkonen – bass
E. Wuokko – drums
A. Martin – guitars