Lethe – When Dreams Become Nightmares (Debemur Morti Productions)

Friday, 17th January 2014
Rating: 8/10

We certainly enjoy when something out of the ordinary passes through our hands (and ears) and Lethe’s When Dreams Become Nightmares absolutely fits that bill.  In Greek mythology, Lethe is one of the five rivers of Hades.  In 2014, Lethe is the name of an international music project between Anna Murphy (Eluveite), Tor-Helge Skei (Manes) and close collaborator Eivind Fjøseide.  This Swiss-Norwegian outfit combines triphop, electronic, metal, pop and avant-garde sensibilities into a potent collection of rich songs to comprise their debut album.

Quite a spacious work, Lethe employs a vast array of instruments and elements in their sound, from the traditional rock instruments to samples, synths and electronics.   Mainly showcasing the lovely vocal work of Anna Murphy, who is able to sound, at different times angelic, sultry and positively tormented, Lethe has an unconventional take on the vocals.  The minimalistic lyrical approach allows the few words penned for each song to be woven into the fabric of the tune, through repetition, but not in a way that overstays – rather, lends more weight to the words.  More akin to another instrument in the band than a centerpiece with an agenda, the vocals really legitimize the seductive grooves and dark poignancy of the songs.  It should be noted that the male voice on the record conjures strong comparisons to latter-day Bowie, who is godlike to your humble reviewer.

When Dreams Become Nightmares has a feel to it that might be suited for a rainy night spent comfortably inside the dry confines of home, the music creating a lush tapestry of melancholically haunting moods and modernized beauty.  Where things can get a bit sloppy along the way are with the occasional overuse of “electronic pollution” or at least what I call some of the clicks, blips, scrolls, and digital junk found in many of the bad hip hop and pop beats that crap up Earth’s airwaves.  A minor grievance in light of the quality of the work herein, When Dreams Become Nightmares is an impressive debut from this interesting and dynamic new group.

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