[Butler Records, 2020]
Intro: Tasos Poimenidis
The great band of Mekong Delta is back after six years of absence and the truth is that many were waiting for the next work of Ralph Hubert’s company. You see, in addition to the cult following, Mekong Delta is one of the most influential technical thrash / progressive metal bands in Europe, the first along with Coroner that showed – independently and in a unique way – how to break the barriers in their music field. Hubert’s work, both as a producer and as a figure in the tech-thrash / prog scene, needs extensive reference on its own.
Wanderer on the Edge of Time (2010) and In the Mirror Darkly (2014) had left excellent impressions and the band seemed tireless and inspired. The expectations are always high for this unique group, it remains to be seen if they were fulfilled in this year’s Tales of a Future Past.
A must album for progressive metal fans
I was so impressed by the single A Colony of Liar Men and the truth is that I was expecting a very good album. After all, in the thirty-three years of Mekong Delta in discography, I don’t think they ever offered even one mediocre album. The final result is therefore at the levels of the aforementioned composition.
Based on the style they created with their latest albums, Mekong Delta once again made an excellent album. The compositions are not so distinguished for their speed this time, but they step more on the prog metal side of the band. In other words, we have the usual Mekong Delta patterns with many rhythmic changes, some dissonant chords, dark style as always and their classic patent to build a basic melody and change it rhythmically, thus creating an asymmetry in the songs. The bass of their leader Ralph Hubert is prominent in mixing with rhythm guitars being further back. This is one of the objections one may have to this album, but personally it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the album.
A sonic component that is now firmly in the sound of Mekong Delta is Martin LeMar, by far the most controlled singer the band has ever had. Excellent quality and placement with a loud voice and very convincing in the stories he sings to us. On the other hand, the return of the Swedish Peter Sjöberg (ex Theory In Practice) gives character to the solos, a player deeply influenced by Mike Wead but also by Friedman and Becker, with excellent phrases and sound, playing just as much as the songs demand. Just listen to his work on Mindeater, the most tech-thrash track and one of the best compositions on the album and you’ll be convinced of his performance. For Landenburg and Hubert we don’t have much to say, they are in their usual playing standards, they weave rhythms in odd time signatures, they are constantly changing directions and paying attention to them exclusively is one good reason to listen to the album.
Mental Entropy, A Colony of Liar Men, Mindeater and When All Hope is Gone deserve a place next to the best tracks ever written by Mekong Delta. Especially the last one, which reaches almost ten minutes in duration, will impress the listener with the style changes and the rich orchestration, with the multiple classical dark themes. In terms of the instrumental parts of the album that take up a lot of time, Landscape 1 is a short introduction, Landscape 2 is a symphonic / cinematic epic with awesome orchestration, Landscape 3 is in the metal style of the songs already mentioned (simply without vocals), while Landscape 4 is a rather unnecessary metal rendition of part of the classic Suite Española, satisfying once again Hubert’s love for classical music.
Tales of A Future Past closes an informal trilogy with Martin LeMar on vocals and stands at least equal to the previous two albums. Technically, there is no question that the work is excellent – how else could it be anyway? – while in the lyrics both the issues raised and the approach are, as always, a chapter in itself. This is a must album for the band’s fans and an excellent and relatively accessible occasion to introduce oneself to the mysterious musical world of Mr. Hubert and his companions.
9 / 10
Six whole years after their latest album, the return of Mekong Delta is a highlight and the content meets the expectations. Tales of a Future Past sketches the future in a pessimistic way and looks sadly at what is preparing for the coming of a dark world. In its musical part, I think we hear the best version of their sound after their long absence and their return, after which they’ve already produced five records. Their sound served as a meeting point for thrash metal and symphonic music in a clear progressive outline. In Tales of a Future Past the awesome orchestrations are combined with fast and heavy riffs. In some tracks, especially the instrumental ones, the weight falls on the orchestrations and in others – more dynamically – the approach is heavier and more direct. The former may not seem like something out of the ordinary, but the expedient coexistence of the two seemingly different music genres is rarely successful. The main thing is that the band knows how to balance between the melody and the heavy sound with an epic air penetrating their music. Ralf Hubert’s genius guides the band on new tracks, three decades after the band’s debut.
8.5 / 10