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Thief - Map of Lost Keys

Map of Lost Keys
by Chris Hawkins at 12 August 2019, 2:36 PM

The strain of darkness, alive and palpable in the music perpetuated by originators from all angles, is like a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating virus, self-replicating throughout the subliminal ether of consciousness.  Whether one channels their tenebrous soundtrack via the Death Metal of MORBID ANGEL, the haunting Black Metal of BURZUM, or by way of epic Classical composers that pushed the limits of accepted musical expression like DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH or BELA BARTOK, the ends justify the means.  Selecting THIEF to review was like placating a personal challenge to broaden long held conceptions of nighttime captivation.  Diving into the music on “Map of Lost Keys,” the second full-length, could be likened to navigating a lost highway through tight turns and steep hills during the twilight that occurs just before sunrise.

THIEF is the project of D. Neal, an Electronic outlet for dark, subversive musical expression.  Though definitely not Metal, THIEF comes from the same perspective as many “heavy” bands.  As previously mentioned, the medium may be different but the ultimate effect upon the mind is eerily similar to the blackest of Metal as there is ultimately a shared kinship evident within “Map of Lost Keys”.  What sets THIEF apart is its unique mix of Dark Electronic and Gregorian Hymns and after listening to what ensues, one is swept away by this extravagant blending of what once would have been labeled as disparate styles.

One could mistakenly label THIEF’s “Map of Lost Keys” as a minimalist affair.  That would, however, be a failure to take into account the extensive layering involved in the arranging of these tracks.  Fans of bands as diverse as PORTISHEAD and modern ULVER are sure to delight in the lurid, fluorescent vibe created within.

Vesper,” the lead track, is a fitting invocation justly setting the table for the coming feast of nihilistic nocturnal song.  The sound is wide replete with preternatural noises and sparks of combustion.  The following track, “Frost Breath,” truly sets the album in motion with a driving sub-bass enhanced drum beat.  This is a fully-realized Dark Electronic hymn that paints a blackened portrait of a lustful devil swaying to the moving rhythm.

The album moves along with a variety of expedient ideas.  “Desert Djinn,” the fourth track, is an infectious romp through decadence highlighted by soothing vocals and enchanting orchestrated choirs.  The seventh track, “Unsafe,” is a sublime melding of Trip Hop and Baroque sacred music.  One is haunted by the seductive melodies complimented by evocative flourishes of vocals.  “Without a Master,” the ninth track, is propelled by a nuanced, distorted beat that is irresistible with its persistent mayhem.

Map of Lost Keys” is a challenging listen yet one to properly decorate the appropriate mood one wishes to set.  One can quickly become lost in the lush soundscapes.  It ends with a fitting sample proclaiming, “everybody wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die”.  Truer words have never been uttered.  Ultimately, music is at its best when it transports the listener, a task that is victoriously accomplished by this album.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 9


4 Star Rating

1. Vesper
2. Frost Breath
3. Pyromancy
4. Desert Djinn
5. Holy Regicide
6. With Love, From Nihil
7. Unsafe
8. Gouging Out a Cave in Empty Sky
9. Without a Master
10. Spirit Box
11. Spirit Archery
D. Neal:  everything
Record Label: Prophecy Productions


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Edited 01 June 2020

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