It would appear that technicality and dissonance have won out over traditional structures in death metal this year. Highly ranked amongst these unconventional victories is Exiler, the second album by Virginia’s Construct of Lethe. Exiler exudes a grim atmosphere by occupying an awkward position only fractionally removed from comfort. The material isn’t quite avant garde but remains just esoteric enough to eschew immediacy in favor of magnetism. Whatever the appropriate descriptor, the one thing Construct of Lethe unquestionably are in 2018, is necessary.
Exiler combines the alien flourishes of Morbid Angel with the robust angularity of Immolation. These songs are all about measured dichotomy, pitting extremes of tempo against each other and mining the resultant musical gold from the collision. Not an inch of the album sounds unconsidered as “Rot of Augury” heaps deconstructed rhythms and churning guitars on top of a bluesy introductory solo. “The Clot” dials up the extremity with more distinct heaviness and highlights the talents of rhythm guitarist and songwriter, Tony Petrocelly1. His chunky intro riffs devolve into mid-paced grinding and eventually a center-piece of unshakeable blackened hooks. Soon, album nexus, “Soubirous,” takes it upon itself to compound Exiler‘s dour demeanor with slow, oneiric sequences that shudder with intermittent blasting.
Gloating behind the record’s bizarre capacity for replayability are the minute moments of repetition buried in each track’s capricious nature. Patrick Bonvin encourages this memorability with his fantastic soloing. His style is deceptively orthodox, but stretches the themes just past their natural conclusion so that each feature truly enhances as averse to opportunistic grandstanding. “A Testimony of Ruin” is my pick of the album. A reserved chanting supports vocalist Dave Schmidt’s brawny growls and gurgled rasps, but Bonvin’s strangely emotional lead breaks persist to accentuate the song’s ecclesiastic presence. For those lamenting something a little more typically heavy whilst still clinging to that atonal atmosphere, “Fugue State” is close at hand. The track’s rusted edges and anxious narrative emanate a confused hostility but ultimately float away on another bed of cathartic soloing.
Loath as I am to use such a horrendous phrase, Construct of Lethe indulge in thinking man’s death metal. Admittedly, Exiler contains a lot to unpack, but it’s absolutely never a chore to do so. Each play-through reveals another microcosm of detail to pore over as the songs’ individuality becomes increasingly evident. There were certainly more overtly eccentric releases this year, but very few of them can boast a fraction of Exiler‘s creativity and class. Equally, those young bucks only interested in neck-snapping riffage would do well to pay extra attention to a band like Construct of Lethe. There’s a dismal depth and innate heaviness to the material that encapsulates the off-kilter idiosyncrasies that lurk inside every death metal fan. Twisting and contorting, sickening and cold.
Tracks to Check Out: “Rot of Augury”, “A Testimony of Ruin”, “Soubirous” and “Fugue State.”