Monday, August 12, 2013

Lingua Mortis Orchestra Feat. Rage - LMO (2013)

The common misconception that arises from the use of terms like "symphonic metal" or "orchestral metal" is that it is more of an addition to an existing sound, rather than a new sound altogether. It doesn't mean adding strings to Slayer, or a horn section to Mastodon. Orchestral metal is, and should be, a separate sub-sect of the metal flow chart. Perhaps we've become jaded, thanks to tacked on orchestral elements on popular power metal releases. But Lingua Mortis Orchestra, a true orchestral metal act from Germany, aren't just taping additions onto their music; this music was written, produced and performed to be a combination of classical and metal. With an undertaking this massive, there were concessions to be made, and guest musicians to be booked, something that can be a sticking point. With a trio of singers brought in to provide the bending and winding harmonies, including soprano Dana Harnge, it would be an insult to call this rose by any other name. On the eight track, hour long opus known as "LMO," we get an orchestral metal education, from a band that knows a thing or two about it.

The three part "Cleansed By Fire" is an ambitious opening to the album, albeit a well thought out one. While it boasts all of the subtlety you would expect from an album of this scope, it also successfully bridges the gap between random symphonics and metal. One look at the lyric sheet reveals a far more detailed content than one would expect. More than that, though, it is a full out instrumental assault from all sides, burning through notes like they are going extinct. By contrast, "Scapegoat" falls on the aggressive side of the scale, holding little back in both sound and fury. The distortion levels are high, and the vocals are far more gritty than the rest of the album would have you believe. This begins a transition that is easy to follow, and easier to enjoy. More than just the advertised orchestral appeal, the theatrical nature of "The Devil's Bride" is immediately intoxicating. In the span of six minutes, they take you from the opera house, to the orchestra pit, to the arena, all without so much as a breath in between. The seamless transitions are impressive enough, but the individual pieces are even moreso, with every layer shining as brightly as the ones above and below it. Whether the spotlight shines on the flowing guitar melodies or the seismic activity of the drum kit, it never overpowers anything else on the way.

The aptly titled "Lament" takes things in a far more emotional direction, flanked by piano keys. Tracks like this one go beyond the normal ballad format, introducing an ability to think beyond the boundaries of metal, and do something far more inspired. It also opens the door to the sublime; whether it be a vocal or guitar part that just changes your perspective. They have done so here, rising out of "Lament" and into the short, but moving piece "Oremus." With a piece of otherworldly guitar work, and atmospheric notes behind, the band takes you from the solemn pit into a soaring overture. Following that near rollercoaster pattern, it stands to reason that "Witches' Judge" be a raucous and blasting affair. They haven't abandoned their storytelling to achieve something heavier, but rather they harness it and merge the two together in a brilliant fusion. It's as if they have started the ball rolling down hill, picking up all that comes in it's path. The shredding in the solo sections could easily have been poached from thrash albums, while the squealing harmonics bring an established groove to the mix.

But for every point (groove), there is a counterpoint (melody). The nearly ten minute "Eye For An Eye" is both the counterpoint to the previous track as well as to itself. It's sheer depth is something to behold. The speed and precision with which the entire piece is delivered is another story altogether. On it's own, this would be a masterpiece of epic proportions. As part of a greater whole, it is a keystone in the arch that allows the entire effort to stand tall. The vocal performance, with both male and female harmonies, is award worthy. As the synthesizer holds a long note, the track rolls over and begins anew in "Afterglow." The guitar work, despite always being a part of a larger movement, is at it's best here, ripping through scales and chords progressions like no other track on the album. In the latter stages, it becomes another layer to the vocal melody, one that gives a resounding punch to the mix. That prolific work, however, is padded out by the final minute of the track; beautiful ambient sounds cradle and eventually place you at the feet of the album.

If you've lived your metal life thinking that orchestral metal is just a buzz term people use to describe bands, you aren't ignorant; you've just been improperly informed. Bands like Lingua Mortis Orchestra deserve more than to be lumped in with the power metal masses, as they put an exorbitant amount of pride into their work. The simplification is nearly insulting. But with albums like this one, they are giving the average listener an in depth look at what it means to make music of this scope, this richness, and this character. Along with bands like Therion, they are going above and beyond the common sound, and giving rise to a new vision of what orchestral metal can be. No, it isn't all going to be this good, or even this well conceived. But it starts the discussion, and will probably influence many young bands to step outside the box they've built for themselves, and doing something more with their work. Though, to be fair, it might breed a new wave of bands who put Orchestra at the end of their name for kicks. Attila Orchestra? Avenged Sevenfold Orchestra? Shutter to think. Leave it to the professionals.


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