San Francisco’s Lotus Thief have been bringing their particular brand of mystical, historical melange of doom, space, prog and post rock for a while now, with each release further settling into a dark corner of atmospheric post rock and metal. With Oresteia, the band feels more expansive than ever, even as that expansiveness leads to the songs losing some impact along the way.
That wasn’t the case with 2016’s Gramarye, an album where the songs were actually longer, but more confident in their structure and execution. So much so that it made both mine and Zyklonius’s end of year lists. Songs like “Book of the Dead” and the gorgeous closer “Idisi” showed how you can maintain a certain level of erudition while keeping the music heavy and engaging and fully in keeping with a lofty narrative concept.
That concept has already been taking historical texts as the basis of modern commentary, as well as some serious prog-post doom rock, and Oresteia is no different. Taking as its foundation the ancient Greek tragedy cycle from Aeschylus, there’s plenty of material to dig into: moral responsibility in the face of violence, the concept of justice as it relates to revenge and even the treatment of others. And Lotus Thief dig deep into their bag of tricks to bring those questions to life. Each proper song, from opener “Agamemnon” to “Sister in Silence” have moments of fragile beauty and sweeping passages that work to reinforce the heavy content being tackled.
If only those moments weren’t overshadowed by too many moments of doing, well…nothing. The prime offenders here are the segues, which separate each song and more than anything else feel like overlong intros that do nothing to enhance the experience; only prolong it. The biggest culprit is the three minute “Woe” which does little except to bring Oresteia to life, other than to seamlessly segue into “The Furies” which ITSELF takes another minute before getting to a place of expression and movement. I understand the power in holding a moment for dramatic effect, but those moments of power are already evident in the moments of the actual songs, whether it’s the lead to the aggressive double kick that precedes the stunning power of the vocals in “Libation Bearers” or how “The Furies” eventually picks up and exhibits some terrific percussion in its middle section, playing against rubbery clean guitars and vocal harmonies that comes straight out of the classic rock/pop world. There are also subtle shades of electronica that bring an otherworldly vibe to the proceedings, which only further my desire to cut through the segues and get straight to the juice, as it were.
All of which doesn’t change the fact that there are few bands doing what Lotus Thief are, and that the moments of power within Oresteia are well worth your time to listen. It may boggle my mind that being the shortest release in their career it feels like the longest, but maybe for a lot of folks that’s a good thing. Me? I’ll probably cut the interludes and stick to the meat of the project.