Lotus Thrones – Lovers in Wartime Review

One man bands intrigue me. As someone who owns every instrument one needs to create an album, but can’t really play any of them proficiently enough to even try, I respect the abilities of the multi-instrumentalist. In theory, it’s a different headspace for each instrument – how to compose with them, where they fit in an arrangement, and so forth. Where these projects often fail (or wildly succeed) is usually in the songwriting department moreso than the execution. The lone band member has no mates to bounce ideas off of, and sometimes loses sight of the big picture. I’m hoping that’s not the case with Lotus Thrones and their (his) debut album, Lovers in Wartime. If the cover art in any way represents the contents, we’re in for a dark, lush, and menacing ride.

Heath Rave is the man behind Lotus Thrones. He was also the drummer for Wolvhammer and Across Tundras. This solo project came to be, as many have, due to last year’s many months of quarantine. Rave started Lotus Thrones to return to creating music, moving in directions not really related to his former bands but showing influence from acts such as Neurosis, Sisters of Mercy, and more. It’s a promising formula, and at times works wonderfully. Heavier fare such as opening track “Precipice” and album highlight “Diametric Retrograde” evoke a less furious Neurosis, with plenty of raging drum lines, noise-ridden guitars, and angsty vocals. Rave opens “Precipice” vocally by intoning “Brace yourself, you’ve got it coming,” adding a genuine sense of foreboding to the music. The styles presented definitely align with the gloriously dark cover art.

Not all eight songs sound like these ones, though. The two instrumentals, “Lovers” and “Liberate,” both feature shoegaze backdrops with Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) noodling away on his sax. And in a mostly successful effort to show us how to rework originals, Lotus Thrones take Bad Brains’ “I and I Survive” and turn it into a sludgy, mopey, and noisy journey. “1000 Suns” ends the album with a bit of hardcore punk flavor, and like all the songs, conveys a sense of anger and frustration. Rave clearly had enough of isolation and quarantine when he wrote the lyrics to Lovers in Wartime. In “The Quarry,” which also features a great guitar solo from Andy Schoengrund (Coagulate), the chorus includes “We want you six feet under, not six feet away. Do the world a favor and go meet your maker.” In the gothic “Fatigue” he chants “You’re all too fucking close to me.” This is a lyrically acerbic and scathing album.

The mix on Lovers in Wartime, by Sanford Parker, is fantastic, but it can’t hide the fact that the songs just can’t attain the next level. Beyond “Diametric Retrograde” and the super off-kilter tom rolls in “Precipice” I find myself struggling to find standout material. The venomous lyrics will be tiresome to some, relatable to others, and Rave’s vocal delivery is much weaker than the music. Like anything written during the pandemic about the pandemic, they may not stand the test of time. None of the songs really stick out, and none of them are awful. It’s a rather nondescript album despite the strong mix and often admirable instrumental performances.

I can’t criticize the effort Rave put into his Lotus Thrones project. He got tasteful assistance from a couple of respected musicians, a great mix from Parker, and he shows enough talent instrumentally that he can be proud of his work. However, the songwriting forces Lovers in Wartime into the background too often when dedicating listening time to the project. The frustration in the lyrics bleeds into the listening experience; I’m in a much worse mood at the end of the album than the beginning, and haven’t we all had enough bad moods the last year and a half?

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Disorder Recordings
Websites: lotusthrones.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/lotusthrones
Release Worldwide: July 30, 2021

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