It’s often with some degree of dramatic irony that I’m given albums to review. This time it’s a progressive black metal and jazz affair by German act LEIþA (Translation from Old German: Suffering). This album was described to me as being akin to a few other albums I have reviewed and naturally I was interested. The irony came into play when I noted the title: Sisyphus.
When writing this, I was in the middle of job hunting and a better, or more empathetic soundtrack could not have fallen into my lap at a better time. This album which is filled with self criticism, uncertainty and doubt is described by the artist as “a result of doubt and self-loathing” is the perfect accompaniment.
I feel black metal works well with the myth of Sisyphus in a way that other genres can’t. The swirling riffs mimic the repetitive task of pushing the boulder for eternity. But with that inherent perk of the style comes the problem of needing to stand out further.
The title track gets the album going in a very compelling way. It hits hard and it hits fast but it doesn’t overwhelm you instead preferring to work its way up. NOISE, the mastermind behind the act displays a mastery of black metal vocals and in that moment sets this apart from other acts.
Prometheus displays what it is that makes this album interestingly unique. There are jazz influences here but they are well masked and I think a listener wouldn’t suspect them if they were not told. I think the band has taken a more free approach to the idea; dropping in little hints here and there. For instance this track features some instrumentation that’s very similar to the style of the violinist STEPHANE GRAPPELLI. These adornments are used sparingly as if to echo the sentiment “It’s as much about the notes you don’t play as the notes you do”.
Töte dich (Translation: I’ll kill you) is as suitably a menacing track as the title would imply. Beyond the usual traits of black metal it takes on a softer, gentler motif that repeats throughout. This serves to create a feeling of unease much like the child’s toy in a horror movie. It would be comforting in its own merit but here it is recontextualised into something more and twisted into being a powerful tool in Leiþa’s arsenal.
Despite the album’s focus on the idea of suffering, I don’t think people would suffer to listen to it. I would go a step further and say that it could be a very good entrance into the genre of black metal for people who are unsure. The songs whilst lengthy and at times simplistic are not obnoxiously so in either regard. In fact in writing this review I’ve had a few tracks looping and I’ve yet to get tired of them. My two criticisms of this album is that it is far too short for my liking and that Grappelli is not alive to record some violin for their next release.
Words: Jacob McCrone
Sisyphus is out now.
Find LEIþA on BandCamp.