Released: 2006, Alternative Tentacles
Ludicra are a band I’ve hated, for a while. I went out of my way to find Ludicra’s albums about two years ago, I ended up getting some MP3’s and was thoroughly disappointed. Why? Well, two of my favourite musicians, John Cobbett (Hammers of Misfortune, ex-Slough Feg) and Ross Sewage (Impaled, ex-Exhumed) were in the band and they created a horrible mess with both the debut and sophomore efforts, 2002’s HOLLOW PSALMS and 2004’s ANOTHER GREAT LOVE SONG. The songs really did sound like a mess, especially when they got into faster paced material. It felt generic and boring. A year since my hate for ANOTHER GREAT LOVE SONG began, two since its release, Ludicra come back with another full-length release, that being FEX URBIS LEX ORBIS on Alternative Tentacles records.
The style here is black metal, melodic black metal. Many reviewers seem more than happy to toss out references to Dissection but Ludicra’s music doesn’t sound remotely like Dissection to me. Sure, both play melodic black metal but I feel Dissection could sound more chaotic (at times), more evil (at times), and their melodies weren’t exactly that far from your standard Gothenburg band. I honestly couldn’t give a proper reference point for Ludicra, partially because I think they do seemingly have their own sound and partly because my personal knowledge of the black metal sub genre, is admittedly rather substandard. Lots of mid-paced riffs, some blast beats here and there, some melodies, and maybe even some links riff-wise to a band like Hammers of Misfortune wouldn’t be completely out of place. The production is pretty clean, at least compared to a lot of other underground black metal bands, all the instruments are entirely discernible from one another and the drums have an interestingly dry sound, almost sounding as if they were being played in your basement (some of the echo and bass drum sound).
So how does FEX URBIS LEX ORBIS sit against the band’s prior works? Another pile of garbage for me? Actually, no. Upon multiple listens I’ve found myself enjoying this new release from Ludicra. The songs sound as though they were planned better, lots of mid-paced and slower sections for riffs and melodies that breathe. Opening track, “Dead City”, opens up pretty slow and stays in a rather gruelling pace for much of the song. Vocalist Laurie Shanaman really carries the track; her raspy screams are quite impressive and carry some depth to them, enough so that it helps the listener discern what she’s singing. The album’s second track, “In Fever”, is easily, in my mind, the best thing I’ve heard from Ludicra. The main riff is in a very “old school” black metal vein, mid-paced heavy riffing. It has a certain bounce to it that creates a great basis for the vocals. The song contains some interesting melodic interludes but relies greatly on a heavy, straight ahead approach that really makes the song interesting and fun.
“Veils” works with a rather melodic, downtrodden feel. The song’s pace changes here and there but is generally on the slower side; the melodies take over and the riffing contains a very melodic feel, the song coming off as rather melancholic. The way the drums and guitar work in the beginning creates a very jammy feel to the track and the drums continually work that feeling with interesting fills tossed about. The soft to heavy interplay works well, especially with some of the clean vocals interspersed about. The song does feel a tad too long as I find myself losing interest going into the jammy ending. The pace is picked up in “Only in a Moment”, opening tremolo riffs that unfortunately borderline on generic and boring. The descending melody at 1:19 going into a nice build up works well to create some interest and the song does pick up at that point and while the band delves into much more atmospheric fair later in the track, the song never really seems to get going. The album ending “Collapse” (there are only 5 tracks adding up to nearly 40 minutes) feels more like a jumble of ideas than of anything of any real merit. Some good ideas occur such as the song’s intro but some ideas are focused on for too long (the song’s opening section being a perfect example) while others shouldn’t have even been included.
While FEX URBIS LEX ORBIS is a stronger release than the bands prior two full-lengths and I do enjoy the album as a whole there are still some definite weak spots here and there that definitely need to be corrected. If you’re already a Ludicra fan, I’d definitely recommend obtaining this album as it’s their best to date.