Monday 24 August 2020

Lapsus Dei - Sea of Deep Reflections (2020)

Country: Chile
Style: Progressive Doom Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 16 Jun 2020
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I came to this album believing that Chilean band Lapsus Dei play doom/death metal, and yeah, there's some of that in here, but it seems like it's a long way back in their history. They've been around since 1998 and this is their fourth studio album, their first since In Our Sacred Places five years ago. It plays more as progressive metal to me, with predominantly clean vocals, a strong sense of perky doom and at least one leg in the hard/prog rock era of the seventies.

For instance, The Call of Sirens feels fundamentally rooted in doom but far forward in the band's evolution, as if Messiah Marcolin's era in Candlemass had evolved into a prog band, adding folky keyboards, Led Zeppelin riffs and a David Gilmour solo, even enhancing the latter with a little Fleetwood Mac edge from The Chain.

It does make for an interesting sound and the result is highly Scandinavian, so much so that it's hard to reconcile that this is a band from Chile. Were I listening to this blind, I might imagine someone like Amorphis, circa the point with Am Universum that they moved away from their original sound into something more progressive and hard rock in nature, but newer, less overtly catchy and with a tinge of a band like Soen.

Only one song is sung in Spanish and it's Naufragos, the longest song on the album and another one that feels like it came out of doom but got faster and perkier. The swirling keyboards are so light that, however demonstrative the beats, I was too uplifted to feel doomy. Given that the title translates to Shipwrecks, that ought to feel a little odd. Somehow I left it wanting to be shipwrecked.

Naufragos pretty much finishes halfway through and goes instrumental. That means a fresh Gilmour-esque solo and it's very confidently delivered. I like this sound a lot but I have to admit that I found myself anticipating where it was going at points, as if I'd heard these particular changes before. Was Rodrigo Poblete drifting into Shine On You Crazy Diamond or did he just nail the underlying sound behind it?

The Last Trip is the first song to feature death growls and, by this point, we're almost halfway into the album, so we can't see it as one of the band's primary focuses any more. However, The Last Trip, and Colossal which follows it, are excellent slabs of atmospheric doom/death, if still brighter than we might expect.

The doomiest song on offer here may be Alone I Break, not because it ditches any of the keyboards but because they float so achingly over a neat dirge of a riff. Like so many of the songs here, it finds its mood and milks it well, even if half of it features clean vocals and the other half harsh.

It's all extrapolated forward so far that it's hard to imagine where Lapsus Dei started out. I look forward to working through their back catalogue to find that out. For much of the album, I'd suggest a Paradise Lost influence, as there's much in Alejandro Giusti's voice to suggest that he's listened to a lot of Nick Holmes, across multiple eras, but the music often suggests My Dying Bride instead, especially during the second half of the album.

Either way, I like this a great deal. Every album I hear from South America adds to my wish to hear more. This is very different from the prog I've been reviewing from there lately, but it's just as welcome.

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