Mithras – Behind The Shadows Lie Madness Review

originally written by Jim Brandon

About three years ago on another website, I stated if I ever hear a Mithras album worth owning long-term, I’d be one of the first to give the devils their due, so here we go. Despite being less than blown away by their previous two albums, Forever Advancing…Legions and Worlds Beyond The Veil, there was never any denying the raw talent of this remarkable UK duo. With the conceptual Behind The Shadows Lie Madness, their third proper full-length, Mithras not only continue to impress with their technical excellence, but they’ve upped the ante when it comes to killer death metal songwriting compared to their own past works, and have wound up with an album that brushes past current releases by powerhouse death metal veterans such as Immolation, the returning Angelcorpse, and Vital Remains among others.

Behind The Shadows…is an almost larger-than-life death metal odyssey, and frankly, it’s an album I wish Hate Eternal would have released by now. The key here is riffs, riffs, and more riffs with just enough repetition to make them stick, adding echoing space-aged melodies which pretty much envelope everything in a resonant blanket of huge sound. Instrumental opener “The Journey And The Forsaken” is soothing for a few disarming seconds, but changes almost instantly into something you might hear during the opening credits of a supernatural South Korean horror movie, and it doesn’t take long before “To Fall From The Heavens” charges forth with a unique marching rhythm stomping along over a viciously fast, oddly-timed blast beat and a brief clean/harsh (!!!) vocal trade off that comes from out of nowhere. The leads alone deserve a paragraph just to themselves, as all the solos are played with an almost cosmic feel to them, drenched in just enough reverb and running wildly up and down the fretboard with seemingly complete abandon.

The riff that kicks in @ 0:46 during “Thrown Upon The Waves” is possibly the most beautiful riff I’ve ever heard a death metal band build a song around and still sound lethally heavy. That’s part of the magic that happens on this album, all these fantastic death metal riffs are used to their fullest potential, and rather than waste time with filler, the songs are kept to a decent length, and these rhythms are accented by the otherworldly harmonics and melodies supplied by Leon Macey. The slight enhancement used on the vocals gives Rayner Coss an almost godlike presence that only increases the depth of the compositions, and I can’t even begin to imagine what this material would sound like in a live setting if they can keep it tight. And another thing, the more I listen to it, the less it reminds me of Morbid Angel, for the counterpoint melodies that align with those punishing riffs and ethereal solos breathe with an individuality that can only be Mithras, and no other.

Possibly the most excellent part of this disc is the production, because the mix is simply immaculate and every instrument strikes with both clarity and unwavering heft. The way the solos wind through the mountains of riffs without hogging the spotlight during “The Twisted Tower”, while occasionally matching and enhancing odd drum accents makes for quite a busy earful, and nothing gets lost nor overly processed in the mix. Most of the rhythms remain slower and follow a rending groove, highlighted in the nearly perfect “Under The Three Spheres”, a painfully fast, simply nihilistic piece of dynamic death metal art that throws in one of the meanest plodding segue/lead passages you’re going to find.

There are simply no weak points to Behind The Shadows Lie Madness, I’ve sat for hours trying to pick this thing apart, and just can’t find a major flaw anywhere. Not only is it executed without error, the songwriting is tight beyond belief (the blinding tremolo riffs @ 1:26 of “Into The Black Holes Of Oblivion” are sublime), and memorable enough to wake you in the middle of the night with the licks playing in your head. In all honesty, with no fanboying whatsoever, Mithras have set the standard for death metal the likes of Nile, Monstrosity (their new one is also quite commanding), and Behemoth will find very challenging to top. This is advanced, intelligent, gripping death metal every fan of the genre should own, and those scores are for real. Essential.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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