Mekong Delta – In a Mirror Darkly (SPV)Tuesday, 20th May 2014
Something may have gone awry with Photoshop during the creation of the album art for In a Mirror Darkly. It’s like a presentation of someone’s first Photoshop attempt…and a really porous one at that. It’s the type of thing that sours the overall presentation of a generally smart and worldly band such as Germany’s Mekong Delta. As one of the first practitioners of pre-progressive progressive metal, the Germans have always had a foot toward the future, even if they’ve remained in cult confines for virtually their entire career. In a Mirror Darkly (their 11th overall) probably won’t change that, yet it’s one of the better offerings of tried-and-true prog metal we’ll get from the mainland.
At their best when running with the first-in-class sensibilities of mid-90’s Dream Theater, or any number of the melodically-inclined bands on the Sensory Music roster, Mekong Delta don’t feel the need to entice anyone with their technical pedigree, which can be found on the mood-setting instrumental opener “Introduction + Ouverture.” Of course, they instantly kick it into gear via “The Armageddon Machine,” an action-packed, buzzing tune with lively drum work that is top-notch. The forgettable “The Silver in God’s Eye” notwithstanding, “Inside the Outside of the Inside” emerges as the album’s most formidable tune, teeming with the thrash crunch of Watchtower, joined by an assortment of difficult transitions.
In an odd twist, it’s Mekong Delta’s regular attempts at displaying variety that ends up hurting them on In a Mirror Darkly. Take any one of the album’s jolting, prog-on-thrash jams and the band is in business; it’s the reserved, methodical cuts and/or moments that turn the band into something of the drab sort. However, Mekong Delta has learned a lot of tricks since their 1987 formation (and 11-year break between studio albums), so their regular attempts at maintaining balance among the progressive status quo suits them just fine.