Lethe is a new project, featuring a collaboration between Tor-Helge Skei of Manes and Anna Murphy of Eluveitie, and their debut album When Dreams Become Nightmares is a dark, twisted, experimental genre-bending masterpiece, oozing madness and creativity.
The best music is often that which doesn’t fit in a box, when artists don’t create music within strict genre boundaries, and just let it come out however they want to. And this is the success of When Dreams Become Nightmares, it’s incredibly varied, with elements of metal, electronic, trip-hop, psychedelia, gothic rock and industrial, it’s impossible to even begin to say what genre Lethe actually fit in, because they play a style which is all their own. And while it’s easy to see the influence from other artists, especially latter day The Gathering’s excellent soundscapes, Ulver’s sophisticated trip-hop, and The 3rd and the Mortal’s dark atmospheres, they combine all these elements and more to create their own dark and dreamy sound.
It’s a very atmospheric album, dreamy and warm, yet at the same time remaining dark and down-tempo, with an ominous tone lingering throughout the album. The production is excellent, with the music creating beautiful textures throughout the album, the instruments all gel together to form great walls of sound. Anna Murphy’s voice is incredible on this album, she has a varied approach, sounding beautiful and dreamy on some of the tracks, especially You and Come Look at the Darkness with Me, while she also adopts a more experimental approach at other times, almost shrieking on opener “In Motion”, similar to Monika Edvarson, the ex-singer of Atrox. Her vocals are great, beautiful but strange, and give another layer of madness to the album.
Every track on the album is different, but it flows really well, and not one track is filler, each is very creative and intriguing, and each has a hint of madness to it. Haunted is a really heavy track, the opening industrial sounding riff is great, with electronics creating an excellent and strange soundscape, and Anna’s voice is fantastic, almost in the background adding another layer to the dark atmosphere. Come Look at the Darkness with me is one of the tracks where Anna’s voice features more prominently against an excellent heavy riff, with a fantastic piano melody in the background, and a trip-hop beat. Transparent is mostly electronic, it’s a very dancey track which sounds trippy and strange, it has a rather unsettling atmosphere. Final track When Dreams Become Nightmares is particularly haunting, with dark piano melodies, and Anna singing at her melancholic best, conjuring up dark and frightening images in the listeners mind. The lyric “I never want to dream again” being especially sinister. The album is so unique its hard to do it justice, it really needs to be heard to appreciate how excellent it is.
Overall, When Dreams Become Nightmares is dark, twisted, and simply weird, but it also sounds very playful and vibrant at the same time, giving it the sense of Alice in Wonderland gone wrong – her adventures down the rabbit hole taking her into a darker more twisted world, filled with monsters and shapeless dark forms lurking in a black, desolate fog. It’s a dark, but interesting and rewarding trip. It drifts from style to style, but never sounds overdone, flowing perfectly from beginning to end.
It’s only January, and it seems nonsensical to throw around phrases like “Album of the Year”, but when you hear an album as intriguing, brilliant and unique as this, its reasonable to say that this will surely be a contender. Anyone who enjoys experimental metal bands such as the aforementioned Ulver, The Gathering, and The 3rd and the Mortal will love this, and its highly recommended for anyone else wanting to hear something compelling and different. It needs to be approached with an open mind, and with any preconceptions left at the door.
Lethe on Facebook here.