The climes of Sweden seem to be the perfect breeding ground for metal: from Yngwie Malmsteen to Opeth and Meshuggah, numerous innovative acts have sprung from the Scandinavian nation. With these progenitors and contemporaries like Humanity’s Last Breath and Vildhjarta, our newest Swedish import Letters From The Colony are put in the unenviable position of distinguishing themselves from their pivotal peers. The new signee to Nuclear Blast Records proffer their debut full-length, Vignette, to worldwide audiences on February 16, 2018. Does it stand out in a proliferated scene? Or drown in a cacophony of similar sounds?
“Galax” opens Vignette with TesseracT-esque washes of clean guitar. Though quite a typical introduction for the genre, LFTC subverts the similarity by introducing the band on a surprising offbeat. The technical, finger-bending riffage that follows immediately sets LFTC apart from some of their more groove-oriented equals, leaning more on SikTh-like furiousity and tech-death precision. This 8 minute opener covers melodic ground as well. The song segues into jazzy explorations and startlingly subtle guitar melodies before climaxing with an inspirational, post rock inspired section and fading with pleasant atmospherics. Over this diverse soundscape is vocalist Alexander Backlund’s Jens Kidman-like bark. He occasionally goes into more guttural territory, but never flirts with melody.
Single “Erasing Contrast” immediately follows with one of the catchier riffs and more mid-tempo offerings on the album. Though not the most engaging song present here, it acts as a concise teaser for the variety presented throughout Vignette. Further, the track’s guitar lines and suspenseful riffage evoke the darkness of Vildhjarta’s Måsstaden. Though much of LFTC’s work leans heavily on their influences, they do so with a confidence and songwriting sense that is redeeming.
It would undermine the effectiveness of LFTC’s debut to simply say that it runs in similar territory for most of its nine tracks; the quintet use their technical proficiency, command of dynamics, and understanding of melody to create enjoyable songs, even if they are not particularly diverse. The towering title track ties together the album with twelve minutes of powerful riffs and ambient explorations. Particularly notable is the incorporation of some very unique horns/synths and impressive soloing in the adventurous layers of the song. The production throughout the record is stellar, but its ability to preserve dynamics is especially apparent here, with “Vignette” ebbing and flowing towards its final fade.
Letters From The Colony draw on many of the influences that most metal acts we cover do. What sets them apart from the fray are three main factors: songwriting sense, death metal aesthetics, and especially effective production. Through well-crafted songs that explore jazz and ambience alongside mathy technicality and metal intensity, Vignette stands tall. Letters From The Colony do much that their peers and predecessors have already accomplished. However, it says something of the quality of Vignette that I enjoyed every listen thoroughly and looked forward to the next.
Notable Tracks: “Galax”; “Vignette”
FFO: Meshuggah, SikTh, Vildhjarta, Periphery