Mithras – Behind the Shadows Lie Madness (2007)
In some ways, Mithras plays very basic music. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The thing about this band is that for all their psychedelic effects, their music is composed primarily of consonant, monophonic riffs. A sort of “melodic death metal” if you will, if not one that has much to do with the more typical usage of the term (or the Gothenburg scene). There are quite a few bands that do this sort of thing and differentiate their songs by varying up their underlying structures; Mithras fits under this banner quite nicely.
Anyways, this band is often described as Steve Tucker era Morbid Angel worship. This isn’t entirely accurate – for instance, the vocals resemble those of Morbid Angel’s first major vocalist Dave Vincent. Besides sounding more substantial, they perform fewer lyrics with basic rhythms. Unfortunately, they also lack Vincent’s crucial variety of tone and diction that helped establish him as a vocalist. This is one of the weaknesses of this album, and with a limited vocalist, it is up to the rest of the music to carry this work. Luckily, on those frontiers, Mithras does not disappoint. As previously mentioned, the most obvious hook of Behind the Shadows Lies Madness is the ‘psychedelic’ sound that the guitars indulge in. This manifests partially in the production, which is drenched in reverb and delay, but also in the solos, which are surprisingly consonant and reminiscent of older forms of rock and metal as much as they are of Trey Azagthoth’s patent “lava”, at least in their tonality.
One aspect of this album that is sometimes hard to notice under the weight of the guitar technique is the rhythm section. The drummer’s patterns are varied, and sometimes play long midpaced sections, with limited or no blastbeats. However, the guitar also contributes to this effect at times by performing percussive sounding riffs; a good example of this is the introduction to “Into Black Holes Of Oblivion”. It makes interesting counterpoint to the melodic guitar solos, to say the least. The bass appears to be inaudible at most points; it generally follows the rhythm guitar, and therefore doesn’t really add much to the rhythm. The drums tend to drop out during the slower riffs; such usually serve as bridges between various parts of each song. Either way, Mithras relies heavily on strong rhythms to hold their compositions together, even though they are less prestigious and obviously important than the guitar sections. In the end, Mithras’ influences are mostly obvious to experienced listeners of death metal, but the band builds on the work of their predecessors, and by 2007 had a significant amount of time to work out their own style. It’s a unique permutation of death metal for sure – I’m certain there are bands that more obviously combine ‘psychedelic’ elements with death metal, but in the case of Mithras they are most certainly integrated better than that. The formula they use isn’t perfect, of course – more dynamic vocals amongst other things would improve the quality of future works from this band. Hopefully another studio album will come out soon.
Highlights: “Into Black Holes of Oblivion”, “Behind the Shadows”, “To Where The Sun Never Leaves”, “Thrown Upon The Waves”