I missed Lahmia‘s 2012 debut Into the Abyss and I wish I hadn’t. Regret consumes me. All the pebbles I panned looking for an album just like that. The meaningless conversations I could have zoned out of by blasting “Strength from My Wounds” in my head. Melodeath that does literally anything different will always catch my eye, so Lahmia‘s progressive, occasionally gothic, always interesting take on the genre was very welcome. But seven long years later, the Italians only now submit a second entry for consideration. The layoff brings changes, including a revamped sound that plays with fire given the exceptional strengths of their previous output. But if there’s justice in the world, Resilience will pull enough the tricks out of their sleeve to wow you.
Much of Lahmia‘s initial success derived from the rarest and most essential skill in metal: understanding how to write songs. Their offerings weren’t threadbare visages of crumbling compositions and rusting relics of riffs rotten; their tracks had real meat on their bones, a trend continued by Resilience. As easy as picking out a few influences is (Amon Amarth, Dark Tranquillity, every At the Gates wannabe since 1995), the first few tracks exhibit many of the same tendencies that made Abyss so enjoyable. The first bars of highlight “Elegy for a Dying Sun” get the juggernaut rumbling, and through the intelligent pace variation and some quality bridge work on the superb “Her Frantic Call,” the freight train eventually drags the clap of a sonic boom behind it by the time we hit the generic but still enjoyable “Divide Et Impera.” The choruses snap behind the strength of Francesco Amerise’s howls, as the aggressive yet catchy work of lead man Flavio Gianello blast me off the launching pad over and over again.
However, when trending away from the monolith of riff-centric melodeath, Resilience can’t muster the same quality Lahmia exhibited previously. Dicing up the underlying reasons isn’t hard, but in short, the tracks flex a lot of brawn but less of the brains. Aside from the Gojiraized taps of the doomy “Void of Humiliation,” the off tracks don’t demonstrate nearly enough of the same creative spirit of Abyss‘ exploration, to say nothing of Amerise’s missing Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) impressions. Puffing up the writing style from a lithe early-Arch Enemy/Dark Tranquillity to the block-headed modern standard of meaty meat man riffs imposes a tonal heterodoxy that doesn’t allow much room for Lahmia to expand. Elements that gave their progressive constructions space and weight before are mostly eliminated here. Combined with the fact that most tracks, even the good ones, run too long, and Resilience‘s fifty minutes waffles between “I’ve gotta get a quick pump on” and “Oh, is there still music on?”
Lahmia seemingly poured what remained of their progressive inclinations into the Shylmagoghnar-turned-Be’lakor whale, “The Age of Treason.” Their songwriting chops push the song along—the ramp into the midsection is fucking nails—but pacing issues mount as the track runs into double digits without meaningful experimentation. Lahmia previously kicked ass here, so a reversion to merely decent output is disheartening, especially given that they nail their prototypical elements. In particular, the rhythmic ribbing of new addition Mathias Habib and effective patterns of Andrea Torre stand out. The strong backbone of the record imbues Lahmia‘s strongest passages with the same inevitable sense of unstoppability that the best Amon Amarth songs have.
Whether the shift in tactics was the result of personnel turnover, the long break between albums, or simply a desire to do something beefier, the results are solid. Most of Resilience flexes its beefboi melo-meat so hard that they hoist up the weaker moments and carry them on to the podium. I still hope for elements of Into the Abyss to return in the future and combine with the thickness of Resilience to create one super Lahmia album. Until then though, don’t doubt the integrity of a band whose muscles can put out bangers like this.