originally written by Jim Brandon
With all the gentle grace of Heaven Shall Burn making Hateplow its jailhouse bitch, Gothenburg’s Laethora loudly reappears with The Light In Which We All Burn, a blunt and often battering 42 minutes of tense Swedish death metal that utilizes many different components outside the genre with effortless dexterity. A more defined, focused effort in comparison to the raucous 2007 debut March Of The Parasite, these thirteen evenly balanced tracks show Laethora pulling out all the stops to insure they deliver a respectable followup to their promising first outing.
Boosted by a dry and punchy production job dominated by sharp snare and blazing rhythm guitar, The Light… is a minefield of imploding breakdowns riddled with burrowing groove interspersed with heaving death/grind as the accelerator often gets subjected to some hefty leadfoot. The short instrumental “Ekpyrosis” tests the waters carefully with the barest industrial ambiance before ripsnorter “I As Infernal” comes out swinging and immediately sets the tone for the remainder of the album. This is one of those discs that features mostly 3 +minute tunes that seem to last a hell of a lot longer than what they actually are due to a method of songwriting that habitually changes on a dime, but still is flow-conscious enough not to go off on unrelated tangents. While not interchangeable, each of these thirteen tracks goes through its own metamorphosis between more aggressive parts that give Napalm Death and Cephalic Carnage a run for their money, along with slower bits of Hypocrisy which opens just the barest bit of accessibility for those who are more at home with Soilwork and other less abrasive acts.
“World Deluge” is a bulldog of a song that aligns thrashy drums and big chunky riffs in the style of the aforementioned Floridian death metal band up there, providing just enough recharging time after the rampaging “A.S.K.E” comes whipping through like a summer sandstorm and departs just as suddenly. “Humanae” opens with one hell of a start, almost like the sound of waking up to a beehive around your head as someone is beating it with a drumstick in theory, and “The Sightless” settles into a really badass midpaced groove that opens up a great, less-obvious sort of anger that sets up the contrast of “Saevio” and its superior blend of bombastic grind aspects quite well. “Uproar” is just that–2:24 of everything pissed and wrong with life all compacted into one tune, making for a rare highlight among this wide selection of high-quality meat-and-potatoes trend-free death metal.
There must be a major cathartic rush that comes for guitarist Niklas Sundin of Dark Tranquillity and his Laethora bandmates who are also on the roster of The Provenance (guitarist Joakim Rosen, and rhythm section of bassist Jonnie Tell and drummer Joel Lindell), a lineup that proved successful on the debut, and still remains miles away from their other projects. Vocalist Jonatan Nordenstam remains the main ingredient that gives this disc such a scratchy feel against the ear, with his baked larynx hurling out sounds from the recesses of his chest in a way that makes you want to catch your breath and take a drink. He tends to stand out more when they settle into slower parts and get lost among the drums when they pour on the speed, and his delivery, while very solid, has absolutely no variation in inflection whatsoever, no matter the tempo or mood. Although not a major sticking point, I’d love to hear what Jonatan is capable of beyond his regular freeze-dried roar.
I’m hoping that The Light In Which We All Burn will reach more ears than their overlooked debut did, because all the great things about Laethora far outweigh the bad, since there isn’t a lot of bad other than no surprises to be found. It would be great to see them continue with this ever-improving but still merciless upward climb towards something to be seriously reckoned with for being a so-called ‘side project’, because I sure wish there were more side projects as thoroughly badass as this one.