No matter how much I try, it is impossible to give a thumbs up to an album based on the music alone. This is especially true in the context of metal. For example though I might approve of albums like Hvis Lyset Tar Oss by Burzum or Darkthrone’s Transvilian Hunger, if a band was to form in 2011 and give me the same kind of music, I would probably slam them and show their music the door. There is nothing left to be done in Traditional Black Metal, and that is the truth.
What does this have to do with this San Francisco progressive black metal quintet? Nothing much, other than the fact that they have sufficiently innovated on the basic black metal formula to make my ears perk up. Ludicra is one band that definitely stands out from the pantheon of bands populating the underground scene in the States today. They have used every trick in the book; there is a female back up singer to add the proper atmosphere of awe and silence, there are change of tempos, including Maiden-y gallops, “soft”, acoustic parts ala Opeth, often tremolo picking and blast beats are synced in with clean lead guitars playing arpeggios et all to create that perfect melodic experience. Of course there are the harsh vocals etc that you will find in most forms of extreme metal.
But what really makes them better than your average evil Joe band is that they know restraint. No chord progression is milked to death by monotonous repetition; instead every progression somehow is made more intense by the addition of another element after the introduction of the motif. Some songs are precise and clear, often biting in the best tradition of old school death, while there are others which indulge in the swirling chaos and bitterness of traditional black while keeping the melodies discernible and enjoyable. The tempos keep changing-sometimes the frantic pace of black, sometimes the grounding pace of doom (actually a bit faster than the funeral dirges of that genre) which keeps me hooked. The lyrics are good, dealing with urban city life and loneliness, something which I can strongly relate to. It is another matter that I have to open the lyric sheet at the time of listening to the tracks since I cannot understand a word of what is being growled. I would rather they cleaned up their vocal act, since I found that harshness didn’t really support the brooding atmosphere, the music is really not that angry or ferocious. I think it can be safely said that this stuff sounds right.
Recommended Songs – Stagnant Pond, A Larger Silence, The Tenant, The Undercaste