Review – Construct of Lethe: The Grand Machination

By -
  • Bio: "Construct of Lethe is an international musical collective representing both the simultaneous culmination and dissolution of numerous bands and projects. " - Bandcamp
  • Label: Self-release
  • Release Date: October 7th, 2016
  • Genre: Black Metal, Death Metal
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Construct of Lethe. Never heard of this Virginia based death metal act before? Well, you may know them from when they first came together in 2001 as Bethledeign, or under the name Xaoc when it changed in 2006 until 2010. Amongst the members, this group has a lengthy history going back about fifteen years at this point, though little in the line of studio offerings have been made available. The prior acts had a few smaller releases amongst them, and the current incarnation assembled a collection of demos for a “debut” compilation in 2014. The band also kicked this year off with their first official full-length album Corpsegod (which you can grab as a “name your price” digital download here). As we wrap up 2016, the trio present a brand new self-released six song EP titled The Grand Machination. But was this something that was rushed to market, or is it a suiting way for the group to close out one of their busiest years yet?

One of the most notable differences between this new EP and Corpsegod is the enthusiasm, or the lack there of. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it does play up a dark and ominous presence in quite the fluid manner. The problem is that it sounds a bit too fluid, as if the audio is literally extended into water and sounds a bit sluggish even at its most intense. The guitar work is solid, the steady double bass kicks prove there should be more heat, but the overall take away is more like a shambling zombie than mechanical machine of death, especially given the lifeless vocal presence this time around. If anything, The Grand Machination comes off like the band is trying to be the death metal version of Columbia’s Inquisition right down to the mild growls that are both not that impressive (especially compared to their prior full-length’s output) and how they kind of sound like that of the Budweiser frogs from the company’s older commercials with a deeper tone. The only time I even noticed any additional background rasps, something their prior album did quite well, was about half-way through “Expandentes Putrescat”, and the only time any real action was felt on this effort was “Bibere Venenum In Auro”.

Now, this in’t to say this is a bad EP. It may often seem suspended in liquid, but the performances themselves are pretty spot on as far as atmosphere goes. “Lux in Tenebris” plays up the ritualistic incantation angle quite well while featuring a mixture of a thick funeral procession with a hint of slower Cattle Decapitation. Meanwhile there’s “Apotheosis Calvarium” and its beefier guitar work that jumps between restricted early Suicide Silence and Deicide. It’s an interesting mixture that does showcase some additional support layers in the vocals, but they don’t really offer much until there’s a little extra push about half way through for a brief moment.

Construct of Lethe“Ascendit Ex Inferos” pulls way from the ritualism angle a bit, though concludes in a way that ties things together in a conceptual manner. This makes sense given this EP takes inspiration from Mark Twain‘s “Letters From Earth” (according to the press release), though how it does I can’t really comment on given a lack of lyrics and knowledge of said literary work. The song itself starts off much heavier, but the middle is a little more restrictive in its story-driven outer coating, benefiting greatly from a superb guitar solo and infectious closing that finds the somewhat muted fury of the drumming working with the bleak simpler held riffs and notable slow addition of a support layer to the growling vocals. The same goes for the aforementioned “Expandentes Putrescat”, one of the more unforgiving creations that can sometimes feel like a descent directly into hell, a feeling enhanced by the closing guitar solo and grim static, mechanical effects, and further chanting at the close.

Though it may seem it, to say that The Grand Machination is a flat effort would be unjust. What Construct of Lethe presents here are six solid tracks that mostly suffer from cosmetic issues that make it sound a little more lifeless than the otherwise stellar performances captured would leave you to believe. If anything, it’s a bit sterilized for the sake of fluidity instead of the norm of crisp digital output. This EP is a thick slab of often unrelenting death and black metal influences that mostly nibble on your knee caps instead of jumping straight for the jugular. It does, however, have enough still worth boating about. Given the amount of precision and technicality on display, not to mention the bleak atmospheres and ritualistic elements that ooze out the speakers like a fine, aged wine. While not as powerful as their full-length from earlier this year, it does stand as a separate beast entirely, and one still worth checking out.

Construct of LetheDigital review copy of this release provided by Dewar PR and Construction of Lethe.