I probably over-utilize the term ‘potential’ when describing new bands, when what I really mean is ‘not good enough yet.’ I’ve therefore resolved to remedy this issue of my own volition and be more accurate when summarizing how I feel about a new artist.
Singapore is a country for which I have great respect but it isn’t a hotbed for cultural contributions which typically breach the mainstream consciousness of the international community. In its own insular way, metal is a great flag-bearer for internationalism, as there are bands from countries which would otherwise fly under the radar of many listeners: for better or worse, I would not be so aware of Belarus, The Faroe Islands or South Africa were it not for their fantastic bands.1 And yet I’ve never encountered a band from Singapore before, let alone a metal band. Lamentations came across my desk with their debut Echoes in the Wind and to my great surprise, these guys have potential.
To clarify, I mean this in its true definitional sense and not by my perverted interpretation. Lamentations orientate themselves around technical and progressive death metal, largely indebted to Cynic and similar in their sound to Serdce. Despite this, there is scope beyond these bands as they harness their native ‘Asian’ influences in devoting significant sections of the album to ornate, ‘Oriental’ (an awkward term [Said is spinning in his grave! – AMG]) textures and instruments. Lush acoustics permeate the several interludes, both integrated into the longer tracks (“Heart of the Earth,” “Heart of the Sea”) and acting as standalones (“Dusk,” “Dawn,” the title track), embellished with the Chinese erhu and an airy flute. It vitalizes their technical death, a genre which I often find to be quite sterile. The earnest lyrical themes of nature assist this aspect.
Returning to their heavier characteristics, there are many similarities to Traced in Air particularly. Intricate guitar leads, diverse drum fills and impressive bass work are the name of the game, meaning that excellent musicianship goes without saying. It comes with the territory but the music shifts frequently, leading its listener on a journey of noodly solos, chromatic riffs and percussive transitions. Though no track is brutally heavy throughout, the best passages are at the end of “Rivers of Past” and intermittently during “Heart of the Sea” and “Fortress.” They won’t change your life, but they are very good, indicating to me that these Singaporeans have the goods in their locker.
However, Echoes in the Wind falters on consistency. The record is littered with smart riffs, nifty solos and general coolness, but many songs taken in their entirety are not as satisfying as their composite parts. The first two main tracks offer a stuttering opening to the album: overzealous diversity hinders natural progression and tonal cohesion on “Heart of the Earth,” whereas the greater cohesion on “The Battle Is Not Yours” is burdened by surrender to the Tech Death Trap™. By this, I mean the preference for sheer speed and technical virtuosity above focused songwriting which would render the music technically interesting nonetheless. These qualities become more polished as the album progresses—the aforementioned highlights reside in the latter two-thirds—but Lamentations have not quite realized their potential yet.
My biggest complaint about the production is the weakness of the low end. The bass guitar should be more prominent in the mix and the drums could definitely be punchier to help distinguish the death metal sections. In addition, Lamentations are affixed as a twenty-first century band through the clean tones utilized over those which are raw or warm. While not a problem in itself, I would argue it slightly undermines the organic sound of their quieter passages. This isn’t a huge deal since the decent dynamic range affords breathing space for these sections from the heavier, but it could have been an improvement.
Cynic-al though it may be, Echoes in the Wind is a refreshing interpretation of progressive death metal, marrying native influences with heavier music in a fairly innovative fashion. Lamentations may need to write a few more lines with their songwriting pen to hone their skills, but this is a promising beginning for a band whose name I hope to hear more in the near future.