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Locust Leaves – A Subtler Kind of Light

Locust Leaves
A Subtler Kind of Light
by Harry Green at 19 June 2017, 10:42 AM

Formed in 2003 in Greece, LOCUST LEAVES have come out of nowhere. Bandleader Helm produced a number of tracks that were posted on YouTube but never placed on an official album. The band later released one split in 2012 with label-mates and countrymen Spectral Lore. “A Subtler Kind of Light”, released February 27 of this year, is their first full-length – a lightly used term here as it’s only four tracks, one of which is an instrumental.

The influences are myriad. “Aura” by Bölzer comes to mind as the first ready comparison, which their old-school melodic riffs and thrashy tempo death metal stylings mated to clean vocals. Vocally it’s a unique output, with what sounds like the clean, strong yet perturbed operatic wail of Therion wending through the drafty halls of an old prison tower. The riffs themselves are difficult to categorize; they put one in mind of a more technical take on the well-aged medieval sound of Obsequiae and the aforementioned Solstice (or label-mates Nephilim’s Howl), filtered through the tidy and understated production of Quo Vadis. Adding prog flavor to this blend produces an outcome strongly resembling Psychotic Waltz in parts. It’s hard to characterize the group: calling them progressive/death metal might be the closest resemblance. It’s retro with modern touches in a good way and from an oblique angle.

In a sense, though, this is all misguided because the songs themselves differ pretty dramatically. “Light (Fos)” has a production that retains certain elements of Excellent Canadian Tech Death Band #453, Excruciating Thoughts, regarding the ringing midrange guitar tone and a hint of the ‘tin-can’ drum sound favored by brutal death metal artists. The bass, by contrast, is still kept very close, with no echoing at all. Overall, the production does a great job bringing the medieval riffs to life here. Obsequiae, rather like legendarily thin-sounding doom band Cirith Ungol, often come off as a little limp-wristed, but LOCUS LEAVES are much louder and stronger while retaining the stylings that largely define the two aforementioned bands.

“Pillar (Vraxos)” has a couple of chords that are extremely reminiscent of Blut Aus Nord’s “777” albums, while retaining this production. The song has a much more shred-happy approach, with a plethora of melodic licks running over the piece. Leads and rhythm play off each other very nicely and the variety of riffs the song runs through approaches Wormed levels. “Fall (Ptosi)”, probably the album’s most densely death metal track, continues in this vein by running through multiple styles, devoting time to OSDM, tech-death, and some doom elements here and there. “Flight (Ptisi)” is an ambient instrumental that stylistically works well enough but at six minutes is far too long for how few ideas it explores, especially considering the quality of the other tracks.

LOCUST LEAVES are a pretty exciting group and this full-length, aside from the instrumental (and the very pretentious lyrics), is absolutely superb. It is actually quite hard to characterize the band, but Helm is taking influences from some pretty choice material and weaves it together in a thoroughly engaging way. The specific approach that the band is taking is uncommon, perhaps even unprecedented. In any case, they deserve the hype.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 10
Production: 10
Memorability: 10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1 Light (Fos)
2 Pillar (Vraxos)
3 Fall (Ptosi)
4. Flight (Ptisi)
Lineup:
Nick K: Vocals
Helm: All Instruments
Additionally Featuring:
Ayloss: Guitars
Archon Vorskaath: drums
Gemeinshaft Triste: Ambience
Record Label: I, Voidhanger Records:
     


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