Mithras - On Strange Loops
Willowtip
Progressive Death Metal
12 songs (56:16)
Release year: 2016
Mithras, Willowtip
Reviewed by Goat

Although I will always love the sheer brutality of Mithras’ début Forever Advancing… Legions and the spacey madness of Worlds Beyond the Veil, it’s their latter two albums which really show the band off well. Not just for the sense of balance in the songwriting, which married the early Hate Eternal-esque rumble with the Morbid Angel-on-LSD trippiness of their more experimental moments, but for the great leap forward in production values which meant every nuance in the songwriting became clear. Ask my favourite album from the band on any random day and I’ll give a different answer, but as time goes on it’s far more likely to be either 2007’s Behind The Shadows Lie Madness or this, a hell of a comeback. The last thing we heard from the band was a very promising EP in 2011, and a couple of those tracks have made it here, suggesting music’s inherent bureaucracy was a greater part of the delay than a lack of ability. Rayner Coss’ on again-off again status in the band can’t help, the bellowing bassmaster already having declared he’s departing again for family and business reasons (fair play to the man for having given nearly two decades to death metal, but he was a vital part of the Mithras sound and I can’t help but wonder who will fill the big shoes he’s leaving behind) and although Leon Macey’s multi-instrumental talents will endure, it’s not difficult to imagine another five-year break before we hear any more from Mithras.

It is what it is. On Strange Loops is a hell of a gift left to us mere mortals before its interplanetary creators leave for other dimensions. It refines the formula and improves the songwriting from Behind the Shadows… very well; even intro track Why Do We Live is excellent and possibly the band’s best to date, opening with ambience and soon introducing those eerily alien lead guitars. Coss’ bellow addresses the philosophical track title (the answer being obviously to make kick-ass death metal) atop a very Alchemist-ic sounding backing. First track proper When the Stars Align launches into full gallop, those wonderfully out-there lead guitars exploding in the sky like fireworks and dripping down on the listener like an LSD waterfall, leading smoothly into the more melodic opening of The Statue on the Island, which soon turns almost black metal as it ups the tempo to warp speed. It’s very apparent that the band are better than ever in incorporating keyboards into their sound rather than leaving them as awkward interludes, and these progressive elements are even better drowned in blastbeats.

And the killer tracks keep coming; the slow synth build in Odyssey’s End which then takes a groovier, Domination-esque route is a lot of fun, for one. The Time Never Lasts EP songs are both even better in situ, while otherwise even random mid-listing tracks like Part the Ways are good, solid blasts of death metal. Macey is a skilled guitarist and knows when to let riffs expand and fill sonic space in their own right, Between Scylla and Charybdis’ bursts of melodic noise a perfect example. The Last Redoubt is, admittedly, the sort of synth interlude that I’d normally make fun of the band for, but is far more tolerable than previous efforts, and is over soon enough – it’s probably the worst of a good bunch of tracks present, and given the album running time is over fifty minutes anyway there’s very little to complain about. Other interlude The Outer Dark is largely taken up by a drum solo, which are so rare nowadays that it succeeds on novelty value alone, and the closing title track ups the near-militaristic technicality to make for a hell of a finale. A killer album, this is a perfect counter to the seemingly endless hordes of death metal bands that make it a selling point to actually sound like being buried alive; an interesting experience for the morbid, but sometimes you just want something actually enjoyable.

Killing Songs :
When the Stars Align, The Statue on the Island, Odyssey’s End, Between Scylla and Charybdis, Time Never Lasts
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Mithras that we have reviewed:
Mithras - Time Never Lasts (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Mithras - Worlds Beyond the Veil reviewed by Thomas and quoted 92 / 100
Mithras - Forever Advancing... Legions reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Mithras - Behind The Shadows Lie Madness reviewed by Dylan and quoted 88 / 100
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