Mekong Delta - The Music of Erich Zann
Aaarrg Records
10 songs (37:24)
Release year: 1988
Mekong Delta
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
Their debut was a great start- inconsistent, with flashes of brilliance- but this is where they first released a great album. It’s the same lineup as its predecessor, but they just seem to have got better. Everything about The Music of Erich Zann is more focused than on Mekong Delta. The riffs are tighter and more concentrated, the production crisper, and the vocals, whilst still being a bit of a caterwaul, have become part of the charm, rather than an annoyance. It’s also where they started to experiment, not just with classical music, but with synth-driven “orchestral” ideas, that work far better than they really have any right to. More on that later.

The Music of Erich Zann is relentlessly ambitious, always looking to throw the listener off course with its intricate compositions. The first thing that hits you when you press play is that twinkling unison line that opens Age of Agony, that switches malevolently into a superb speed metal riff that seems to swing about without regard for meter lines, entirely intent on making up its own time signature as it goes along. I love the chorus here, too; not for Mekong Delta hooky, anthemic vocal lines to please the crowd. Instead, we have a short snippet of falsetto wailing, followed by four bars of tapping solo that seems there purely to show off; the sequence is then repeated. Catchy.

Another curveball warranting special mention is Interludium (Begging for Mercy). Normally this is the kind of thing I wouldn’t be able to stand: synth strings jamming with a metal band in an attempt at sounding orchestral- and what’s more, cheese of cheese, it’s a horror soundtrack. But this twisted reworking of the theme from Psycho somehow hits the target, with its strange and intricate interaction between strings and metallic clunking. (They also pulled the same trick a couple of times on their immensely impressive recent record, Lurking Fear). That is the kind of band this is. They are rarely as bangingly awesome as, say, the kings of this style, Coroner, but they’ve never been afraid to experiment and have an ability to achieve things that really take you by surprise.

As I said about their debut, they can also sound weak when overstretching themselves; ironically enough, the problems come not when they get too technical or too classically-minded, but when they try to slow it down and hit a real groove. The only attempt to do so here is on I, King, Will Come, a strange and tedious track that it’s difficult not to want to skip across each time. For the most part, this, more than Mekong Delta, sticks to the up-tempo technical speed, and is the better for it. This is apart from the very welcome inclusion of another Mussorgsky number, The Gnome, that has made it onto my copy of this album.

For those that feel this should be a classic, I sympathise but for me Mekong Delta is not a seminal band, and their records are never perfect. They often walk a line between greatness and ill-advised strangeness. For the uninitiated, though, this band is a great curiosity and their albums are hidden gold. The Music of Erich Zann is their go-to album, and thus deserves recognition from any forward-thinking metal fan for its innovation and its ambition.

Killing Songs :
Age of Agony, Interludium...
Charles quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Mekong Delta that we have reviewed:
Mekong Delta - Wanderer on the Edge of Time reviewed by Charles and quoted 86 / 100
Mekong Delta - Mekong Delta reviewed by Charles and quoted 85 / 100
Mekong Delta - Lurking Fear reviewed by Adam and quoted 79 / 100
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