Have you ever been on a road trip without a map? Let’s say that you and four of your buddies decide to drive across the country with a balmy destination in mind, but once you hop in your Fiat and merge onto the freeway, you quickly realize no one in the car knows how to get there. This predicament leaves the intrepid group to draw upon their collective knowledge of navigation, and only a few of you know the difference between East and West. The point of this soliloquy is to provide a high-level summation of Tuscan band Coram Lethe’s new album, In Absence: sometimes, the progressive metal band is on the right path; other times, they’re lost in the backwoods of their own songs.
In Absence consists of only eight tunes, with one being a two-minute brooding piano intro. Immediately following is the title track, where dissonant plucked strings and merciless percussion lay the groundwork for a barrage of incredible riffs of many flavors; fans of proggy thrash, post-black metal, and classic death will find a lot to love in the impassioned guitar work of Leonardo Fusi and Filppo Occhipinti. Tracks two through five range from solid to spectacular, with “Food For Nothingness” as the standout cut. On the song, Coram Lethe complement their heady metal with vast and expansive post-black portions, featuring optimistic tremolo picking and a much needed guitar solo.
Admittedly, Coram Lethe wear their influences on their sleeves, taking instrumental and vocal cues from legendary outfits like Death, Voivod, and Emperor. What is noticeable, however, is CL’s tendency to shoehorn experimental elements into In Absence‘s second half. On the tongue-twister track “Pain Represents Pained Representatives” (say that five times fast), a spacey segment of amplifier feedback introduces what appears to be yet another piece of solid progressive thrash metal. Suddenly, around the two-minute mark, the musicians slow their tempo to a crawl and reveal their weakest influence: jazz fusion.
The first foray into this new style of play comes as an abrupt change of pace from the elapsed twenty-five minutes of riff-heavy thrash, breaking the listener’s concentration with puzzling songwriting choices. The next track “Antimateria” falls prey to this unwelcome trend as well, and unlike progressive bands like Atheist and Cynic, Coram Lethe’s attempts to meld jazz and death metal feel awkward.
As a progressive death band that sometimes flirts with thrash and black metal, Coram Lethe are nearly unstoppable when they’re in the pocket. Flurries of riffs and dynamic percussion keep most of the tracks interesting and listenable, and Bortone’s distinct vocal performance stands out from most Italian metal. Coram Lethe are very ambitious musicians, and more bands should try to write compositions that take them out of their comfort zones; however, the over-zealous missteps throughout the LP’s second half are what keeps In Absence from being a truly great progressive death album.
In Absence was released on February 2nd, 2018.
Buy the record here.