Monday, July 18, 2011

Ludicra- The Tenant (2010)

Ludicra have never been a band to repeat the same album twice. Each release involves new dimensions, song structures and production techniques.  “The Tenant” continues this trend, differing quite significantly from its predecessor, “Fex Urbis Lex Orbis”. While “Fex…” was a spontaneous, emotional roller-coaster, “The Tenant” takes a much more reflective attitude. If “Fex…” is an explosive and exhausting burst of fury, then “The Tenant” is the solemn reflection upon the event the following day. Appropriately, “The Tenant” is generally slower (mostly staying in mid tempo), less biting and more composed.  The songwriting is very focused, ordered and directed. The album seamlessly interweaves differing elements: heavy metal with black metal, clean vocals with growled vocals, acoustic passages with electric passages.

In addition to the shift in songwriting, “The Tenant” includes several other key changes. First, there is a major increase in Christy Cather’s clean vocals. Cather’s voice is flat, monotone and somewhat disconnected, which fits well with the controlled, reflective attitude of the album. Second, “The Tenant” has much more of a heavy metal influence than previous albums. There are numerous crunchy, head banging riffs throughout the album, as well as other heavy metal signatures, such as the dueling guitar solo at the end of “Clean White Void”. Third, the musicianship is much improved over previous albums. Cather’s lead guitar has especially progressed and this album contains the best solos of her career. 

On the downside, the somber, reflective attitude of the album does not draw out the best from lead vocalist Laurie Sue Shanaman. Shanaman is one of the best vocalists in contemporary black metal scene, deploying a wide spectrum of sounds ranging from banshee like howls to snarling grunts. Shanaman was in top form on the wild and unrestrained "Fex...". Unfortunately, Shanaman is much more reserved on “The Tenant”. While a more reserved vocal style does fit the overall attitude of the album, those who know Shanaman’s full capacities will be left wanting more. 

Nonetheless, “The Tenant” is a highly consistent album with all seven tracks offering something different. My personal favorites are the first two songs. “Stagnant Pond” captures the melancholy mood of the album through slowly swaying melodic riffs that patiently build toward a blistering solo and choirs of soft, clean vocals. “A Larger Silence” involves Shanaman’s most intense vocal performance and layers of anxious, paper thin tremolo. 

On the whole, “The Tenant” is a solid, well rounded and mature release. While it lacks the fire that drove albums like “Fex…” and “Hallow Psalms”, it does contain excellent composition, songwriting and musicianship. This is certainly not the place to start with Ludicra (go for “Fex…"), but is highly recommended for fans of the band. 

Overall: 8/10

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