posted on 3/2010 By:
I think "consistency" often gets a bad wrap in the music world. Consistency in terms of style, not quality, to further clarify. While I'd certainly consider myself grateful for bands that choose to stretch their boundaries (or in some cases annihilate their boundaries) album-to-album, I think there's a lot to be said about the Bolt Thrower's, Slough Feg's and Manilla Road's of our genre. These are the bands we can comfortably hang our hats on at the end of the day. When a new album drops, there's a cozy sense of ease associated with knowing they ain't likely to pitch a curve ball we have zero chance of connecting with. But it's also a line that's proven difficult to straddle for many outfits, hurling them instead into the dreaded neighboring hood of "playing it safe." Luckily, that's something these San Franciscan's have nothing to worry about, as they continually find ways to dapple the corners of each subsequent release with enough varying hues to keep themselves and listeners interested, and The Tenant is another prime example of just that.
Stack Ludicra's fourth full-length next to 2002's excellent Hollow Psalms and you're sure to hear the differences. Their sound today doesn't lean as heavily on black metal, but primary vocalist Laurie Sue Shanaman still shrieks like her cords are ablaze, and a cut like "A Larger Silence" certainly shows the band can still flail and tremolo pick with the best of 'em. We're simply witness to nearly a decade's worth of slowly shifting the core emphasis closer and closer to the progressive and "post" elements that have always permeated the band's music. So, to sum up The Tenant in a quick sentence, I'd say it's "richly textured with progressive extreme metal details and still undoubtedly Ludicra."
One of my favorite things about this band is how essential a role each member plays on each and every tune. The musical pedigree behind the outfit is incredibly strong, and all that experience is put to great use on this record. Agalloch's Aesop Dekker strikes the perfect balance between drumming calmly as accompaniment and driving the ball directly to the hoop at 100mph when the momentum needs a push to a more aggressive level; Ross Sewage (the West Coast's busiest basser: Impaled, Exhumed, Ghoul, Phobia, Wolves in the Throne Room and probably about eight other bands that haven't even been created yet) gets ample spotlight to let thick 'n' heavy ropes of driving bass rhythm flutter, bruise and batter; and the duo axe attack between Christie Cather and John Cobbet (Hammers of Misfortune, The Lord Weird Slough Feg) stir up enough addictive riff and sweetly melodic lead breakouts to satisfy even the most persnickety of extreme metal's persnickets. All this bubbling musical goodness is wrapped lovingly (or perhaps "constricted snakily") by the adder-strike rasp of Shanaman that often gets tempered by a cooling, celestial male/female clean vocal complement further in the backdrop.
Another great asset to Ludicra's sound is how quickly they can turn on a dime in terms of tempo and genre shifts. This actually makes it relatively difficult to filter out all the album's highlights succinctly in a review like this, so I'll just point out that I feel The Tenant strikes strongest with the galloping attack of "In Stable" with its impressively heavy start, elder Fates Warning-like leads and awesomely epic close, the weirdly Voivod-ian/prog-rockin' chugger, "Clean White Void," and the visceral, yet strangely chipper barrage of the near 10-minute "Truth Won't Set You Free." But again, there's at least some bit of awesomeness to point your finger toward in nearly every cut on The Tenant, and the only flat-point that a week's worth of listening has found for me is the relatively mundane midpoint slogging down "The Undercaste."
Yet another great album from one of the Bay Area's least talked about but exceptionally talented bands. It's difficult to believe that it's actually been four years since their last release, but Ludicra have definitely made the long wait worthwhile with this Profound Lore debut. The Tenant blends and bends multiple musical styles but never strays too far off the signature "Ludicra" path many of us have come to know and love. Definitely something worthy to hang your hat on at the end of the day, and certainly recommended to those with an affinity for rewarding progressive extreme metal.
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