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‘Letum’ is the second record from the mystical and obscure Melencolia Estatica. Recognised by fans as a black metal band led primarily by a woman, who goes by the humorous pseudonym ’Climaxia’, Melencolia Estatica are beginning to establish themselves as one of Italy’s leading black metal acts. I assume there are those who consider Melencolia Estatica to be a depressive black metal band, but regardless of their genre or sub-genre status, these Italians are a well produced, finely tuned black metal band and whilst yes, the lyrical content does appear to deal with realms of human emotions like depression and suicide, Melencolia Estatica are about much more than that. This is a reflection of the negative aspects of human life, which most forms of popular music fail to deal with because of it’s harsh nature.
The female influence of black metal is hardly setting the world alight. In actual fact, there is barely any female influence on black metal. Most people look to bands like Astarte for their fix of female induced black metal, but there are a few ‘underground’ acts who play with the boundaries of black metal by including a prominent female influence, bands like Darkestrah and, of course, Melencolia Estatica for example. Climaxia is different from the rest it would seem. In terms of Melencolia Estatica, she controls both the bass, which is a constant source of splendor throughout and the guitars, which are also superb. This means that musical direction is altered and controlled by her and her alone, which enhances the record tenfold. There are no ‘creative differences’ and no one else to get in the way of what she wants to achieve. Although both the lyrics and the vocals (which are usual typical rasps, although there is some spoken word used) are performed by others, one has no doubts that she must have contributed at least something to the performance of each aspects of the record. Though this cannot be considered the epitome of experimentation, it deals with a fair amount of traditional aspects (heavy double bass and tremolo riffs) which will excite older fans and a modern day styling of especially evocative atmospherics.
‘Letum’ isn’t as profound or outstanding as the self-titled effort, which consists of generally better songs, but it is well produced and constructed in a fashion that doesn’t allow it to disappoint. The material, in a sense, is typical of modern day black metal. There are elements of repetition and monotonous musings, but Melencolia Estatica set their sound apart by using bass as a constant emotional outlet and leaning support for the lead guitar, of which there is only one. Bass is often overpowered and overshadowed by the guitars distortion, which can even overtake the influence of the vocals, but not in this case. Each song is self-titled, but split into five different sections ranging from ‘I’ to ‘V’. Unfortunately, ‘I’ is the most outstanding experience on the record although ‘IV‘ does introduce us to a stunning lead riff that depicts snow capped mountains and blizzards with it‘s tremolo style, using a emotional bass outlet to enhance the soundscapes. This is a disappointment because from there onwards the songs don’t have as much effect on the listener as they did on the first track. Despite this niggling negative, the record is a generally positive experience. The production is clean, which is especially good for the bass, as it likes to control, which plays a major role in depicting the depressive soundscapes and solitude that the record so eagerly awaits. Although I don’t rate this as highly as the self-titled record, it still deserves a lot of praise.
First off: what the hell is with this band name? Can you even get "estatic melancholy", or, for that matter, Melancholy ecstasy? To their credit, at least they don't have meaningless song titles, nonetheless, meaningless/annoying band names are a pet hate of mine. 5 Points off for the horrible band name.
And it's a bit of a shame that the band name is so awful, as everything else about this is pretty damn solid. It's not the best stuff in the world but I've listened to this a lots of times; and repeated listening suggests that a good deal of thought and time went into this. I'll start off by saying the production, for one, is absolutely perfect. The guitars are all trebly, in fact everything's fairly sharp and cutting, but the mix is still pretty much perfectly balanced out in terms of instrument level and frequencies. The drums have a raw, terrifically uncompressed feel and have some really great definition- the cymbals for one sound fantastic- I for one am used to fairly mushy stuff from the crash and ride but here, oh man, it's just beautiful hearing some genuine top end. I know it's a bit odd going on and on about this production but it's just so great!
Of course production, no matter how awesome, does need to be backed up by some quality song writing if we're going to have an album that's going to be more use then a reference CD for a sound engineer. It's a shame that ME don't back up their eargasmic production with songwriting of a similar ilk because then we'd probably have an album for the ages but as it stands this is still pretty damn solid. Being hopelessly out of my depth in black metal and its' many variations it's kind of hard for me to come up with some good comparisons, but I guess early Ulver (1st and 3rd) is kind of close; maybe add a bit of Burzum and the pleasant fuzziness of Drudkh and you're there. It's a fairly simple formula that isn't mind blowingly unique or anything but pretty enjoyable, and ME seem to go at their instruments with a fair bit of energy.
That is definitely something that makes this record a good deal more enjoyable then most Ulver/Burzum rip offs. There is some energy here, and whereas Drudkh only ever seem to do well when they do the whole 3/4 time sig, 90bpm thing, ME fool around with a variety of different tempos- plenty of appealing, melodic blasty sections (definitely like Nattens_Madrical with more bass) combined with some rather effective slower things- I refer to the first track's outro which sounds like a non-effete Alcest, if that's possible, and much of the middle section of the fourth track. The whole sound manages to be quite relaxing and soothing- ME manage to get a fair bit of speed up here and there but it's still very melodic and consonant; if it wasn't for the vocals (nothing special here; adequate but hardly special shrieks and the like) then there's nothing here that would offend your girlfriend. Probably a decent album to play around chicks, actually.
I really like this record- I'm not entirely sure why, as while it's quite consistent in quality throughout the songs there's nothing, save for the first song outro, that I would describe as being incredibly amazing or anything. I guess it's just that there really is nothing bad about this record, on any level- the production is amazing while the songs, riffing and instrumentation ranging from great at best to acceptable at worst. Almost everything is a rather pleasing melodic blur, and the tunes manage to be fairly relaxed and melancholic without being overtly prissy or, for lack of a better word, gay. No, I guess overall this is a pretty good album; not incredibly ferocious but with plenty of good parts- and really, really good production. Recommended if you're like your black metal, and absolutely essential if you record it.