Lingua Mortis Orchestra // LMO
Rating: 2.0/5.0 — Sentenced by the Angry Judge
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: lingua-mortis-orchestra.de | facebook.com/linguamortisorchestra
Release Dates: EU: 2013.08.02 | UK: 2013.08.05 | US: N/A
I have a weakness for Rage. They’re a band that, while sometimes inconsistent, has long been a standard for cheesy German power metal. They manage to make music like it’s 1988 without blinking an eye, and while that cheese might not endear them to everyone, it certainly has endeared them to me. Twenty-twelve’s 21 was a concerning affair, however. The record contained none of the orchestral flourishes and progressive tendencies that I had been hoping to hear. Instead, 21 was a largely banal affair, with straight rock tracks and a tad more cheese that I could handle at times. Good; not great.
When I heard that they were going to be releasing the third Lingua Mortis Orchestra record, not-so-promisingly entitled LMO, I thought for sure that this is where all the great songwriting had ended up! They were obliged to drop a Rage record for contractual purposes, but they had been working on LMO in the background; stashing cool riffs and melodic sections that really hit home for an epic LMO release. It made perfect sense, really. Go straight rock on 21 and prog-and-classical-it-up on LMO and everyone’s happy… right?
LMO starts out promisingly enough, with an epic track of ten minutes and thirty seven seconds that starts with a haunting vocal piece and faux latin choirs (“spookytus!“). These opening strains swell outward, into an orchestral piece worthy of The Omen before dropping into trademark Rage riffing and chorus-building. When Smolski’s guitar solo/introduction of the theme burst onto the scene, it all felt right. The record continues on in this vein; epic, bloated, and cheesy as hell. Peavy Wagner’s vocals are as German as ever, and the writing sparkles at times. The second track “Scapegoat” is immense thrash while “Witches’ Judge” rocks out classic Rage groove riffs, backed up by a very talented orchestra. “Straight to Hell” has a little bluesy ditty that starts it off and grooves fiercely, and with added orchestra even borders on a swingy Diablo Swing Orchestra feel—before dropping back into ’80s rock á la “Eye of the Tiger” or newer Turisas.
The band ain’t bad, either. I’ve always thought that Smolski’s guitar playing is one of the most sinfully underrated aspects of the band’s presence. When he does solo on LMO, his presence is indepespensible and his solos are perfect: a balance of virtuosity, feel and melody. Aside from his love for electric acoustic sounds (blech), it’s amazing. Hilgers’ drums are immense and sound good in the mix, while Peavy’s vocals are great and his bass is everything it needs to be in this theatrical piece. You can’t complain about Rage‘s musicianship, that’s for sure.
But you can complain about LMO. It’s a record that’s killed by two things: cheese and bloat. The former, cheese, is something that even I can’t get over, and Angry Metal Guy loves his cheese covered in more cheese. Unfortunately, LMO just reeks of ESL lyrics and fat fingered attempts to work classical music into metal. While the music passes the smell test, the vocals, lyrics, and especially the operatic performances of Jeannette Marchewska and Dana Harnge — both of whom feel hamfistedly jammed into otherwise fine vocal arrangements—really leave a lot to be desired. Their vocal presence is partially due to the theme of the great witch hunts of the 1700s, but while the vocal performances feel misplaced in the music, you can’t just blame them. These poor ladies are stuck with some cheesy, cheesy lyrics and vocal melodies that fall flat when performed operatically. They perform them to the best of their abilities, but you can’t polish a turd, and that was these poor ladies’ job. The vocal interactions between Peavy and the female vocalists on “Witches’ Judge” ranks among some of the worst vocal acting I’ve heard on a record since “IT’S AN AVALANCHE!!” And that’s saying something.
The other problem—bloat, if you’ll remember (a bit like this review, frankly)—is definitely a contributor to the issues with this record. At 10 tracks at 65 minutes, 6 minutes and 30 seconds is your average length and there isn’t that much interesting going on to justify that. While trademarked Rage awesomeness shows up here and there, much of the material is flat and bland. Even worse, tracks like “Lament” and “Eye for an Eye” are almost total losses. After “Eye for an Eye,” the record bleeds into another 18 minutes of boredom. Momentary flashes of Smolski’s brilliance show up, but they are outweighed by themes and choruses that overstay their welcome, or that are marred by vocal parts that don’t work. Cut 4 songs and trim down a few and this record would have been sharp as shit, but instead I spent the last half of the album checking the clock.
LMO didn’t even grow on me through multiple listens. It just kinda sits there, flat and tepid—and most importantly—overwrought. It’s disappointing to report that one of the bands who have previously not really disappointed me have dropped two records in a row that don’t do much for me. I doubt they’re losing a step—Rage sounds as furious as ever—but their latest stuff just isn’t as sharp as earlier material. LMO is a record I’d recommend skipping. Maybe check out ’96’s Lingua Mortis instead or ’06’s Speak of the Dead; they both accomplish what LMO does not.