It’s striking how different genres find their way into extreme metal. Look at how jazz-fusion has become a staple of tech death and how the influence of hardcore shapes much of modern metal. In the late 80s, we saw the incorporation of industrial into thrash, rap into rock, and the seeds of symphonic metal being sown through the pioneering spirit of Celtic Frost.
On the other hand, post-metal and its experimental black metal offshoot do the opposite – they remove the pentatonic rock foundations of heavy music, increase the dosage of doom, and write with the chaos of hardcore in mind. German post-metal outfit, Leiþa, are from this school of thought, although they take the nihilism of Swans and the dissonant guitars of post-rock and mix the two with blast beats and harsh vocals. It’s like a metal album without any semblance of metal guitar. To be honest, it baffles after many listens and leaves you with a permanent frown on your face.
The passion of this band is undoubted and the burden of emotion on this record deserves praise. But there’s something missing. Opener, ‘Sisyphus’, provides us with a fascinating dual guitar approach and muscular black metal vocals and maintains a clarity in the mix that often eludes the drum production in this type of music. You’ll find no overbearing ride cymbal here or annoying tremolo riffs. The Medieval flavour to ‘Endlos’ achieves an excellent calibration of high-frequency arpeggios in one guitar and ringing distortion in the other, but the absence of orthodox chords lessens the heavy impact and forces the band to rely on the powerful vocals of Noise (that’s his chosen name, honestly). Sometimes, you need a simple power chord to enhance the mood and the droning darkness.
To be fair, when they get it right, Leiþa achieve a stunning synergy of post-rock and black metal. Standout track, ‘Sterben um zu sterben’, uses imaginative chord choices and conventional hammer-on and pull-off techniques and achieves a kind of post-metal Paradise Lost effect that may be unintentional but hits the spot all the same. Closing song, ‘Töte dich’, even uses a doom metal passage but adds shiny melodic patterns over the top of the crushing downstrokes to give it an avant-garde death-doom feel. Neurosis fans will grant it a nod of approval.
Unfortunately, though, too many of the songs here sound like somebody asked Johnny Marr of The Smiths to use a dry distortion pedal and a backing track of blast beats to compose the guitar parts. ‘Der Feind lebt in mir’ and ‘Mühsal’ offer little in the way of raw power when the six-string approach is so dull. After repeat listens, it become irritating rather than fascinating.
Black metal and its experimental microgenres are supposed to be oppressive and hostile, but Sisyphus alienates for all the wrong reasons. The ideas are worthy, but the execution is perplexing.
Release Date: 25/06/2021
Record Label: Noisebringer Records
Standout tracks: Sisyphus, Sterben um zu sterben, Töte dich
Suggested Further Listening: Godhead Machinery – Masquerade Among Gods EP (2021), Mannveira – Vítahringur (2021), Harakiri for the Sky – Mære (2021)