Mekong Delta – The Principle of Doubt (1989)
What a strangely produced album. The Principle of Doubt resembles its immediate predecessors on a musical level, but it sounds like it was recorded in a cavern… under a swamp… with instruments made of sheet metal. In other words, it’s a little reverby, and this combined with the often slower tempos and greater levels of dissonance make for a deceptive album on first glance. Give it some time, though, and its continuation of Mekong Delta’s technically flashy and vibrant speed/thrash metal sound will become apparent.
To get it out of the way – The Principle of Doubt is not a hard sell for someone who liked the self-titled debut, or The Music of Erich Zann. At most, it refines on the musical techniques and strategies of previous albums and perhaps exaggerates some of the stranger aspects of their sound a little. There are also some other minor changes that became more apparent with time, such as a generally slower tempo and a more experienced Wolfgang Borgmann on vocals (this time better at throwing and multitracking his voice), but they’re obviously not enough that I would describe this album as doing anything but staying the course. In 1989, Mekong Delta’s stylistic shifts were still off in the future.
While it took me a while to warm up to this one (mostly due to the odd aesthetics), I would nowadays argue that it’s the strongest of the band’s “classic” trilogy, although the previous two are still good choices for fans of this style of music. Oddly enough, I think it’s the minor style changes that make this one shine. As far as I’m concerned nowadays, Borgmann was a weak link in the early days of Mekong Delta, so his steady improvement in technique and growing ambition add some much appreciated aesthetic variety to the tracks. The same songwriting formulas are present here, though, so even without him Mekong Delta would not be lacking for in-track variety, whether it be riffs or textures or overall dynamics. While speed freaks might not like the slackening tempos, they seemingly allow the band to perform more complicated instrumental parts that are conducive to the overall chaotic and mindbending atmosphere they’re going for. If anything, it certainly beats the sterile, almost… klinical sound of Kaleidoscope.
While I would’ve preferred a more aggressive production style (especially given the style of music this album showcases), I still recommend The Principle of Doubt. I mean, if you doubt you’d enjoy this style of music in general, it probably won’t convert you, but how many albums out there actually can convert you to the ways of the vaunted tech-thrash?
Oh. Well… this one’s also good even if it’s less accessible.
Highlights: “Ever Since Time Began”, “Twilight Zone”, “The Jester”, “No Friend Of Mine”