Loch Vostok // V: The Doctrine Decoded
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — A solid showing, but not as good as I expected
Label: ViciSolum Records
Websites: facebook.com/lochvostok | lochvostok.com
Release Dates: Out Now
So last year (that’d be 2011 for everyone reading this review in 2013 and forward) I discovered Loch Vostok‘s record Dystopium a few months after it was released and did a Things You Might Have Missed entry about it. But given that it was last year, I was surprised when I saw that the fecund Teddy Möller and crew had already produced a new record and that it was sitting in my inbox. Now, granted, I didn’t get to it nearly quickly enough (since it’s already out), but I thought I’d drop in and let you know that a) it’s out and b) what I think of it. I like it, but not as much as Dystopium. There, now you don’t need to read any further!
But, nay, you read further! Fine. I’ll tell you about it. Loch Vostok is a band that really has no equal in sound. I’d say they’re like a combination of Strapping Young Lad, Scar Symmetry and others with touches of Emperor or Ihsahn style black metal influences thrown in here and there. Combine that with Möller’s very Swedish power metal approach to his vocals (I don’t know if there’s any single guy I’d nail him as, instead he just sounds like Swedish guys who sing power metal), and you have something that sounds tight, modern, heavy at times and yet also accessible and poppy. As you can imagine, an amalgamation of these different styles, and all of their accessories, means that these guys switch gears often and that works more or less depending on what they’re doing. On Dystopium it worked very well for me, hitting all the right notes and feels for me.
V: The Doctrine Decoded is a different record, even if stylistically and production-wise it’s very similar. For one thing, the clean vocals take a much larger role. With that, the lyrics also come to the fore and cause some serious problems for this native speaker of the English language. Like many of his Scandinavian brethren, Hr. Möller doesn’t seem to have a feeling for what works in lyrics and what feels cheesy (in English). So V, while vocally well-performed, is littered with lyrics that lack subtlety and grace. Stinking gems like “Lately I’ve been finding out all this shit / hard to believe what I’m reading / but I know that it is true / fuck me, we’re so incredibly fucked / but we’ve gotta spread the word now / Let’s put the bastards behind bars” don’t make it easy for me to suspend disbelief while enjoying the band’s groovy, semi-techy metal. No, mostly they make me wince.
But I do generally enjoy the band’s groovy, semi-techy metal. The lyrics quoted come from final track “Beyond the Obvious,” which has really enjoyable verses and a great mid-paced chorus that stick in your head. Opening track “Seeker” bursts out the gate with immense double bass and a great riff that reminds me of late-wave Swedish melodeath before wandering into Dream Theater territory on the keyboard and guitar riffs. “A Tale of Two Kings” has Hr. Möller doing his best King Diamond impression (which is very good) before giving way to great groove metal riffs laced with organ and a Scar Symmetry pop chorus that works (unlike a lot of Scar Symmetry‘s choruses).
The low point musically comes in the middle of the album with “Inflict Chaos” and “Regicide” both being tepid, non-starters, but “Claim the Throne” gives the album a start again with great riffs and a keyboard that sounds like Emperor ca 1994. Between “Claim the Throne”, “A Tale of Two Kings”, “Ravenous” and “Beyond the Obvious” there are a number of reasons to give this record a spin. But The Doctrine Decoded is a mixed bag. There’s some good stuff, but it doesn’t live up to 2011’s Dystopium and there’s enough filler to make me wonder why they didn’t hold off another year and let the material percolate a bit.