Reviewed: July, 2020
Mekong Delta is one of those cult-type bands that ignores trends, ignores politics and just does their own thing. Their combined output is weird and sporadic, this being album #12 after a six year wait since IN A MIRROR DARKLY.
I don’t know why when it comes to the title my mind is automatically drawn to Blind Guardian with a sort of metaphysical title. Both bands have used the words ‘Tales’ ‘Mirror’, Edge’, ‘Time’, ‘Fear’ (and various combinations of those) in their album titles and the idea of the manipulation of time with TALES OF A FUTURE PAST vs. Blind Guardian’s MEMORIES OF A TIME TO COME. I’m not implying anyone is copying anyone, I just noticed that kind of similar lyrical playground both bands work in.
The band has signed to Butler Records out of the Netherlands, a small, new label and Mekong Delta is by far their biggest signing to date. The new album is thought-provoking and is adorned with the classic font/logo. I like it. Even though the bands mascot, the skeletal fiddler, is not present the look is more clean and streamlined. At times Mekong Delta album covers can get cluttered and even blurry so this is a nice change. I know it is mot much but when your CD is in the rack with 100 others, a eye-catching album cover can make all the difference. Internally, there is not much change, Hubert produces again and guitarist Erik Grosch is out and Peter Lake (Sjoberg) is back after an extended absence.
The band has settled a little on this album, there are many fine progressive elements but in places it might be lacking some of that frantic thrash energy that has often been a component of their sound. Dare I say this is more of a refined, sophisticated style of the band? The classical elements are not as prevalent either giving this album a bit more of streamlined sound to my ears. That is not necessarily as bad thing!
TALES OF A FUTRE PAST is anchored by four instrumentals (The ‘Landscape Suite’ I’m calling it) at track positions one, four, seven and ten totally almost 20 minutes of the 55-minute album. The band has maintained their kinetic style with lots of technical, progressive elements and well placed time changes. Vocalist LeMar is very proficient with great range and power in his delivery. It can’t be easy to find space to sing over these dense and technically advances compositions and work in words like ‘perdition’, ‘mendacity’, ‘banality’ and ‘entropy’! The pace of the album is steady, leaning towards fast a good part of the time giving the songs a sense of motion, energy and urgency. The slow, instrumental parts are effective counter-parts to the heavy parts something the band has always done well since the beginning. This is not simple music for simple people, hence the aforementioned cult status of the band.
It boggles my mind that a bigger label hasn’t picked up Mekong Delta. With more promotional push and hype they could be much bigger, but maybe main-man Ralf Hubert doesn’t want to dance with the devil. As long as he keeps putting out superior material like TALES OF A FUTURE PAST, he will have a long career with a select, loyal and niche audience of guys like me.