Primus. Tool. Fantômas. There are bands that truly epitomise what it is to eclectic, and blend myriad influences without becoming convoluted or start to sound confused. Lethe comfortably sit in this category. Their second full-length album, The First Corpse on the Moon, blends avant-garde metal, trip-hop, electronica and pop – to name a few genres – in a glorious experiment that is more aptly described as a piece of art rather than an album. Copies of First Corpse… would not be out of place hung in the Tate Modern as well as lining the shelves of your local non-brand specific record shop.
The album begins with ‘Night’; a collision of heavily distorted guitars, pulsing synth swells and big-band jazz-esque drumming, all held together by an astounding vocal performance by Anna Murphy. Her vocal melodies exude Herculean levels of strength with her declaration; ‘the night is mine’ to create the song’s main refrain, while she brings a hauntingly fragility to the verses that makes those flurries of power all-the-more joyous.
With the second track, ‘Inexorbitant Future’, the album *really* turns into the eclectic masterpiece that Lethe prove themselves to be. The vocal interplay between Tor-Helge Skei and Anna Murphy is reminiscent of ‘Coil’ by Opeth, though does not feel derivative of the song, as well as being the icing on the trip-hop/prog-metal cake that sets them miles ahead of many of their peers.
‘Down into the Sun’ provides a mellow break in the torrent of musical virtuosity and is relatively stripped down for the duo, but is charged with such genuine emotion that it makes for a wholly engrossing affair that lacks any cynicism of most modern-day ballads – looking at you pop-punk – as well as featuring a polyrhythmic guest rap from K-Rip of fierce intellectual lyricism, all underneath Murphy channelling the celestial majesty of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’.
It’s very difficult to find flaw in this artwork, but even harder to single out a high point. If you were looking for the best summary of the feel of the album, you should start with the title track – a song that features a mix of synthesisers and orchestra, solidified by yet another beautiful vocal harmony between Skei and Murphy that could give SikTh a run for their money. This is an absolute must-hear for any fan of challenging, beautiful and intellectually stimulating music. It is a triumph.