A key string of documentation from the surviving peak of the Attic goat-songs of the fifth century BCE, Aeschylus‘ Oresteia persists today in the minds of men not for its novelty as a complete set of three Greek tragedies but for the insatiable void it fills in the minds of those held captive by their own ruthlessly shifting social order since. As The Eumenides entertained stadiums beyond the harvest democracy was spreading thick across Athens through brutal maritime war and pointed social change; All classes could hold high office by the order of Pericles and greater fortifications citywide would comfort citizens against the threat of future wars landing upon their port. What resonates today as improved contextual translations reshape the original voice of each tragic play is yet their most clear applications throughout the ages, a spiritual characterization of democratic justice beyond ‘eye for an eye’ retribution and the inevitable reshaping of traditional gender roles for men and women within Greece. Bloody vengeance, matricide, treacherous deception all appear barbaric as a curse looms over the house of Atreus — Arguably the most reasonable spear to the chest of the traditional Athenian home. Western artistic traditions beyond the Age of Reason have quite often resurrected these great works in theme and imagery to assuage the necessarily blunt change felt within seemingly apocalyptic eras of torn societies. In this current age of seemingly irreversible planetary ruin it is San Francisco, California based avant-atmospheric extreme metal quintet Lotus Thief who’ve felt wholeheartedly the impact of those great works and applied them to their own visionary work, this third full-length ‘Oresteia’.
Of course this isn’t the first spark of ancient literary brilliance to influence this celebrated high drama fusion of post-rock, dark ambient, space rock, atmospheric sludge, black metal, and electronic music as prior subjects include Lucretius‘ De rerum natura (‘Rervm‘, 2014) and the nature of belief parsed between references to Homer, Crowley, and the Merseburg Incantations (‘Gramarye‘, 2016). In their past approach of relatively obscured ancient works Lotus Thief have generated the expectation of a timeless exploration, an easily shared but uneasy metaphysical experience that comes with no exact genre focus. Though a thread of distinct conveyance of mood and sonic lustre persists through each work their pool expands well beyond the project’s original vision as an artful ‘spin-off’ from members work in progression from Botanist side-project towards this eclectic, accessible venture. Where has Lotus Thief grown into new skin enough to warrant a third release? Imaginative use of the chorus of ancient Greek theater was perhaps Aeschylus‘ most distinct innovation and it is fitting that ‘Oresteia’ is a vocally driven album that layers sombre ethereal narrative by way of clear and eventful diction. Sleepy electronic music elements fit nicely into Lotus Thief‘s sound, increasing the feeling of a melodramatic post-rock album and find the band slipping out of the proggy space-rocking skin of ‘Gramarye’, excising any musical relation to Botanist in the process.
There’ll be no suggestion from me that this album invokes the musical traditions of ancient Greece or any sustained musical relation to the choral traditions of Greek tragedy. All relation to classic concept and theme comes from lyric prose that pulls its impact from references to a set of cited translations of the Oresteia. ‘Oresteia’ itself is not a classicist piece in any sense but a modern blending of extreme metal influences with dark ambient post-rock music. There are some full-on dips into black metal this time around, most notably “The Furies” and “Libation Bearers”; I’d felt the greater takeaway from these moments was that all limits are intentionally pushed to extremes for the sake of the narrative but without cauterization of the seductive, learned nature of the listening experience and inspiration. The first five tracks are the most compelling not only for their personal curation of narrative points of impact within the three plays but for the alternation of extended songs with short ethereal ambient pieces where each provides a ladder of descent to ruminate upon between the ramping drama of the trilogy itself. The major impact of ‘Oresteia’ is there in that first half hour of this ~40 minute record.
Though the subject matter of this fine album is an obsession of mine Lotus Thief‘s dramatic transcendence of sub-genre specificity isn’t likely to curb me towards similar artists in this style, which should appeal to fans of Worm Ouroboros, Wolvserpent, and recent works from Alcest. I am personally very rarely drawn to the sleepier side of post-black metal or vocally driven music on a regular basis — As such, I can give moderately high recommendation for ‘Oresteia’ for its high-value concept, exceptional performative value, and beautifully expressive songwriting though it’ll likely exist in a vacuum per my own tendencies.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.5/5.0
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