I must admit I was pretty excited when I first read about San Francisco’s Lotus Thief, a duo consisting of musicians that are also members of Botanist. The promo blurb and various press snippets mentioned buzzwords like “space metal”, touches of avant-garde, and experimentalism which was enough to tickle my interest. Knowing how great the music from their other project was, I dug into Lotus Thief’s debut Rervm with a lot of expectations.
Indeed, the first song on the album, “Aeternvm,” shows the band in a promising light. Their style of metal, exhibited in full right away on this introductory track, reminds me of the sound of various occult and/or doom metal bands such as Castle. Not bad, not completely original as I had envisioned, “Aeternvm” is packed with some nice riffs, a psychedelic, spacey atmosphere, and unconventional vocal harmonies à la SubRosa. It ends with some ambient, electronic music and soundscapes. The thing is, the rest of the tracks feel copy-pasted. All of the pieces are sameish [You’re in trouble now! — Steel Druhm], with similar structures, with riffs and sounds from the same bag of tricks. And worst of all, the same overly long, dwindling ambient outros are attached to each song making them detached from each other. This becomes slightly annoying by the third or fourth tune and these outros feel like an afterthought, tacked on just to enable the band to frame the underlying concept of the album (more about that later).
Still, there is some variety to the record. Some of the tunes such as “Miseras,” are more aggressive, while others feature several tempo-changes (“Discere Credas”). Yet, these variations most often don’t work in the band’s favour. When it goes really bad, they sound like a dull alternative rock band. Fortunately, there are stronger songs such as “Discordia,” which will, even being as formulaic as others, bring your attention back just when you think you had enough of the record. My main pickle with the material is its inability to capture and hold the listener’s attention. You get hooked on twisted riffs only to be rudely awakened by the tune tapering off. It’s tiresome. Part of the problem is definitely the ambient stuff, which few metal bands pull off correctly. Lotus Thief, I’m afraid, are not one of them. Make no mistake, this is not a debacle and there are many moments on the album that are enjoyable, but as a whole it just doesn’t work all that well.
To add salt to the wound, the production is abysmal. Boomy, all of the instruments are mashed together, as if the dynamic range were hiding in some cave or at the bottom of a barrel. It’s a shame since Otrebor (drums) and Bezaelth (vocals and all other instruments) are clearly talented. As
I’ve hinted before, there’s an all encompassing concept on “Rervm” which makes it a bit more interesting. Namely, the songs are based on a didactic poem from the 1st century B.C., Lucretius’ “De rerum natura,” which deals with the philosophy of Epicureanism (superstition and the divine – bad, pleasure and absence of pain – good). Hence the latin titles of the six tracks which are tied to each of the six books of the poem. It’s an interesting concept that doesn’t reach its full potential since the music doesn’t correlate with the general ideas all too well. While “De rerum natura” is an ode to secularism and materialism, Lotus Thief’s music feels oddly sacral.
It’s weird how many things went wrong here when we take into account how good Otrebor’s Botanist is. There are some ideas and expressions on this album that make his genius shine through, but this doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. There’s potential peering through the cracks of “Rervm” and hopefully their next record will be more accomplished. As it is, we’re left with an “OK” album that is maybe worth a spin or two if you’re aching for some occult sounding metal with unusual vocal harmonies.