How do you write about music about writing?
If Lotus Thief baffle the power of words to keep up with their music, it may in part be because their music is already so much about words, even the parts without words. At least, that’s supposed to be the idea, I think. According to their press material, all of the songs on Rervm are responses to or interpretations of ancient texts in dead languages by visionary weirdos. I’m not sure I would have figured it out just from listening to the music, but apparently it’s music about writing, and maybe that’s one of unconscious reasons that I can’t stop listening to this record equinox in and solstice out.
I know it doesn’t look cool to review an album that’s been out for more than a year. But sometimes there’s music that trips the Metal Detector so far into the red that it demands retrospective consideration, because its effect on reality refuses to diminish with time.
Whatever the process behind the construction of Rervm, wherever they got their ideas from, whoever let them into that Roman crypt, the thing that you hear on this record is so flawlessly determined and magnificently deliberate that it’s hard to believe how new and experimental it is. They carry over a little bit of the washed-out sparkle from the Botanist sound, but you would never confuse a song from that iconic post/black/hipster-metal band that Bezaelith used to play bass in and a song from Lotus Thief, where she does everything except the drums and dulcimers (which are by Otrebor, also of Botanist). This isn’t music that dilutes metal with influence from another genre or looks beyond metal’s boundaries for some means of escape from tradition. It is music that transforms and evolves what metal is, by going deeper. This is metal because it subverts. This is metal because it defies. This is metal because it descends. You don’t so much listen to Rervm as fall through it. A lot of metal is scary because it sounds like it’s trying to kill you. Lotus Thief isn’t scary for any reason so trivial. They’re scary because it sounds like they’re going to change you.
As mentioned above, one musician plays almost all of the parts on this record, so obviously there are machines involved. And the machines matter, but you won’t hear them very much on the recording. Even with a synth here and there, Rervm isn’t electronic music, not a product of technology, but it is something that was audibly created with technology, coherently an artifact of an advanced civilization, and that’s somehow intrinsic to the way it summons up a long fallen one. From harmonized vocals that sing in a round, even though they’re all the same voice, to guitar upon guitar warped together across time by one set of hands, to the samples that stitch the seams between songs — samples of things that don’t belong in our time, not because they were taken at a renn’ fair, but because they remind us of atrocity which transcends ages — all of it is articulating that this music is here, now, and of an age, and that this age too shall crumble. Even the post-metal facade eventually crumbles as the record progresses, and it must say something about how deeply narrative this music is that it feels like a spoiler when I tell you that you have to wait until track 5, “Discordia,” before Bezaelith announces “fiery exultation / annihilation” and all hell breaks loose with hissing black metal snarls and Otrebor starts smashing his drums like they’re the helmets of conquered Visigoths. It’s not far to the end of the album from there, but before it’s over, your hair will stand on end.
Nothing this pretty has ever been this heavy. If you like Patti Smith but always wished you could mosh to it, hit Lotus Thief on Bandcamp.