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CD Review: Laethora – March of the Parasite

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laethora marchoftheparasiteAt the moment, the main selling point for Laethora is that its lineup includes guitarist Niklas Sundin of Dark Tranquillity. A skilled graphic designer with many famous album covers to his credit, he also did the artwork for Laethora's debut, March of the Parasite. However, the band (which includes three members of The Provenance) is hardly Sundin's show, as it sounds completely different from Dark Tranquillity. This album proves that Laethora more than stands on its own.

The press for Laethora somewhat misleadingly states that it's "rooted in the death/grind tradition," with "harsh and organic production." There's plenty of death metal here, but no grindcore whatsoever. The production isn't slick, but it's extremely professional, layered, and strong. What we essentially have here is a doom metal band in death metal armor.

March of the Parasite begins with a quote from film director Werner Herzog: "I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder." No printed lyrics came with with the cardboard-sleeved promo, so I can't tell if this soundbite relates to the lyrics. However, its cheery sentiment applies to the sound. In its never-ending quest for brutality, death metal sometimes forgets how to be dark. A well-timed bend or discordant note can sound more evil than technical riffs flying by at 250 bpm.

Laethora has learned this lesson well, as March has a unique darkness about it. The album starts off solidly, though unspectacularly, with the Morbid Angel-esque "Parasite." "Clothing for the Dead," too, just seems to pass by. However, the album wakes up with "Revolution at Hand." Its blastbeats and eerie tremolo picking recall Napalm Death circa Fear, Emptiness, Despair.

From that point on, the album stops trying to be brutal (though it hits plenty hard) and instead wallows in its own darkness. Songs trudge through dirge-like half-speed sections, full of plangent ringing tones and piquant pick squeals. "Black Void Remembrance" is the highlight here. With devastatingly bleak riffs and haunting clean vocals, half the song could have been on Katatonia's Viva Emptiness. The other half is straight-up death metal with blastbeats and death growls. "Repulsive," too, alternates rocket-fueled thrash beats with a harmonics-tinged, steel-toed stomp straight out of Godflesh. Such duality sums up Laethora.

Those used to pumping their fists to Dark Tranquillity or headbanging to conventional death metal might find Laethora unsettling. Much metal makes the listener feel strong; this album doesn't. It's vulnerable, disturbed, and slightly panicked – the sound of shredders facing their inner demons.


Laethora on MySpace

The End Records

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