By: Owen Coggins
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Released on September 16, 2016 via Prophecy Productions
Lotus Thief present their second album, a collection of tracks based on different texts from different eras, held together with a distinctive vocal-led sound. The record is apparently based on a bewildering array of sources, as this paragraph from the press release shows:
“Gramarye compiles five different antique source texts that span nearly two thousand years and five different civilizations, ranging from the ancient Egyptian funerary passage The Book of the Dead, to Homer‘s Odyssey and the medieval Merseburg Incantations (one of the only pagan incantations still in existence in Old High German) through to the Aleister Crowley-penned early 20th century occult literature, The Book Of Lies.”
The write-up, though, seems vastly more ambitious than the actual music contained here. Basing albums on secret grimoires and forbidden rituals is a long established tradition in rock and metal. But it’s actually less important to have comprehensively studied the ancient occult arts and measured the secrets of alchemical transformation than to actually give an impression of mystery, risk and excitement. And sadly, though it’s a decent enough listen, this album doesn’t really evoke much of any of that. Like Botanist, with which the band shared members, the theoretical ideas are brilliant and intriguing, but the musical development isn’t quite as challenging or original as you might hope.
The powerful but floaty, piercing but enveloping vocals are great though, the distinctive sonic quality around which the record is organised. The stuttering, stop start bassline in ‘Circe’ is effective, with siren-like guitar tones wavering (taking over temporarily from the Siren-like voices). The production is a bit smoothed-out for my tastes, with even the occasionally appearing aggressive croak vocals a bit rounded off and safe.
For me the final two tracks are the strongest. ‘Salem’ has a bit more intent behind the lurking bass, surging guitar crashing and wisping vocals, which collaborate on the most memorable crescendos of the album. Then ‘Idisi’ closes the record with a classic post-rock build, chug and then build again, ending with a calming vocal coda before evaporation into silence. Those interested in complex but digestible songs at the polished post-rock end of a musical spectrum will likely find much of interest in this album’s coherent sonic aesthetic sustained over its five tracks.