Lithica – The Unholy

I think that for all new black metal bands (and, hell, a lot of death and grind bands as well) the very first goal, before even writing any music, is to get a Christophe Szpajdel logo made for them. Seriously, fully half of the extreme metal bands in the world sport a Szpajdel logo, and while they are fantastic works of art, I’m now able to recognize one of his pieces on sight. I suppose you can’t be blamed for springing on free, quality work. The latest Szpajdel-packing black metal band is Lithica, a gothic-atmosphered melodic black metal band (with optional death metal syrup packet) out of Calgary, Canada. It’s not as unfocused as it sounds, promise.

The aformentioned gothic elements on ‘The Unholy’ comes a great deal from from the keyboards. The organ setting used for them seems a tad silly at first, but you get used to it, and combined with the slightly lower than normal tempo throughout the release, it becomes a more than tolerable presence in the music, generally following the guitars throughout. Guitars play a combination of mid to fast-paced chugging Dimmu Borgir style riffs and some more traditional, atonal BM riffing, and vocals are a fairly normal rasp with the occasional low growl. The bass guitar here is much less typical, coming out Carpathian Forest-style on its own periodically throughout the EP, best noted on opening track ‘Grominsloft’, where it peeks out without restraint from guitars to deliver slightly jazzy atmospheric breaks accompanied by the synths. The formula, while a tad messy, is pretty well established, and the songwriting is solid throughout. A layer of death metal influence goes another step to distinguish Lithica from other bands: the first half of ‘The Dreamshade’ is almost pure death metal, and works nicely in this vein before switching into the more typical style of the band.

Production is reasonably clean yet flat, with guitars and vocals needing a bit more definition, occasionally being overwhelmed by the omnipresent keyboards. The drumming here is programmed (and rather obviously so), but it doesn’t particularly lower the quality of this release aside from giving it an obviously mechanical edge; since the EP’s recording, a real drummer has been found to fill the ranks. Overall, the four tracks here seem to be solid, well-played black metal, if not something mind-blowing. But a few things would certainly help Lithica to move from above average to very good. The first would be to ease up on the gothic atmosphere. The keyboards, though capably plaid, made me giggle upon first hearing them, giving me images of bats and Bela Lugosi more than some Stygian crypt. This style is rather pervasive and would do better in smaller amounts coupled with slightly more abrasive technique on the part of the band. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly: more complex riffing is needed to truly take Lithica to the next level. A number of the riffs here are very simple three chord tremolo affairs, which doesn’t really fit the somewhat more complex song structures here. I’m hardly in any position to complain about simplistic riffing, but there’s a place for it and there’s a place to amp up the technicality a bit, and Lithica is planted in the latter end of this spectrum.

Lithica’s debut EP is a solid if not spectacular set of black metal tracks that bear further investigation for the underground black metal fan. With a few simple tweaks, we’ll be hearing more from them in the future. Provided they aren’t devoured by the keyboard-summoned ghost of Vincent Price in the meantime.

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~ by noktorn on August 3, 2007.

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