Lotus Thief, Passionate Storytellers of Night, Bring Us “Libation Bearers”
Lotus Thief first captured my attention with their 2014 debut Rervm, a delightful exercise in postmodern space-rock which felt psychedelic sans pretense. Above all, though, it was resolutely a dark album despite its occasional shimmer and glimmer, seating it perfectly in my genre-sorted library of albums under the category of "night music." I reserve this category for music which sort-of defies categorization any other way; sure, Lotus Thief's upcoming third full-length Oresteia crosses paths with doom, post-rock, and post-metal, but how it weaves within and throughout all these varied cornerstones is the real story. It does so again under the darkness of night, through the veiled shadows in and out of which mysterious spectres appear and fade. But now, musically and vocally, the band has absolutely blossomed into so much more. Check it out for yourself with an advance stream of the album's longest song "Libation Bearers" below.
The dreamy intro on "Libation Bearers" soon gives way to a building surge of rock, then metal, as frontwoman Bezaelith's on-point clean vocals give way to equally on-point screams. The song feels like one behemoth arc rather than a verse/chorus deal; for sure, one thing I've always loved about Lotus Thief was their ability to flow like water when most bands churn like engines. This new album sees this more than ever, especially as instrumentation, production, and everything else has been given a huge boost since their second full-length Gramayre. "Libation Bearers" is easily the strongest song by this band to date, and the new album shows substantial progress from an already-strong position, opening the taps anew and really letting some beautiful inspiration flow.
Oresteia hits shelves next month, but in the meantime, check out our exchange with Bezaelith about the new album and the band's direction from this point forward.
You sound killer on this new album. How do you feel your singing style has progressed since the prior two albums Rervm and Gramayre? Have you adopted any new techniques, or is there any new emotionality behind this year’s voice?
Thank you. The overall feeling is that the vocals are coming forward and becoming more clear and crystalline. In my early work in metal, a lot of the musicians I worked with preferred their female vocals "buried" in the mix, which stylistically means treating the vocals like you would treat a high guitar-line in a black metal song. It was a stylistic preference at the time of Rervm, and when Gramarye came along, the vocals got pushed forward a bit. When it came time for Oresteia I felt like the vocals were not just a pretty instrument dingling along a melody or some whispy girl vox thing: they were driving the songs and telling the story. They needed to be front and center to do that.
Musically, how does Oresteia progress or transcend prior Lotus Thief albums? Or, maybe it lives in a more mutual relationship with those older releases, each one showcasing a facet of the band?
Oresteia takes a step forward from the previous albums, namely in the number of hands it has passed through to get to its final form. Rervm and Gramarye were primarily the work of two composers. Oresteia is a collaboration of five composers -- myself and four new players, each tempering the album with their own personalities. I drafted the demos, but from there Kore, Tal R'eb, Romthulus, and Ascalaphus were weaving their threads into the whole piece. Kore rewrote his own drums and gave them such a raw beauty and power. He's one of the toughest dudes I know, and this comes out in his playing. It's like a stone foundation.
The guitars are different too -- instead of just me, there's a blend of myself, Tal R'eb, and Romthulus, giving the guitars a wider field in general. Additionally, three males sing on this record: Tal R'eb, Romthulus, and Ascalaphus. Ascalaphus can be heard the most. His hellish screams and dark low vocals are awesome counterpoint to the female lead and chorale. Also there is Tal R'eb, who basically stood up and co-produced this whole thing with me. His work is all over guitars, and most particularly synth -- most specifically the ambient tracks on this album. The responsibility of making this album feel like one long experience from start to finish fell to him. His synth gives me chills when I listen to it, particularly "Banishment" and "Woe." We work really well together on coming up with parts and writing the main components of songs, and this will be even more obvious in the albums to come. I felt like with these guys standing with me, my vocals could ride in front and tell the story.
Lastly, this album was mixed and mastered with Colin Marston (Krallice, Gorguts) at his studio, The Thousand Caves, in NYC. Colin and I met years ago on tour. He gave me sound advice when I was holding a demo of Rervm and it just made sense when I moved to NY to see what our sound would evolve into with him behind the desk. He gave this record a kind of controlled burn that truly served the music.
Is there a story behind Oresteia, a narrative, or other meaningful tale, whether embedded in the lyrics or held within the personal lives of the band’s members? What can listeners expect to uncover, at least emotionally, and maybe even concretely?
Lotus Thief's albums focus on words from the past. A lot of history is discarded without lessons learned. This is perhaps the hardest thing to do -- to think on what the past is telling us. Oresteia is the first Lotus Thief album to tell a story -- in this case, the story is Aeschylus' 5th Century B.C. tragedy, "The Oresteia." The play deals with violence and the birth of law as something handed to us by a higher power (like Hobbes' "Leviathan," "State of Nature" requiring governance to save people from themselves -- highly debatable stuff). For the first story we told, I wanted to do a piece that appears in almost every American public school classroom. A text probably 80% of the kids read and maybe only 20% are given a chance to think or care about depending on quality of instruction and reduced attention spans unbridled consumer-driven technology has yoked upon the young.
That we have such instances of actual bloodshed in our classrooms is indicative that the question of violence needs re-framing and debate. It is extremely difficult to channel our anger and pain into something that serves rather than destroys. Oresteia is a story about people who inflicted a lot of pain upon each other, but the making of Oresteia was the reverse. We worked together in spite of the inevitable stuff that happens in life. That's the achievement of this album, and its successors. We go into more depth on the players, our history and Aeschylus's tale in the artbook release of this record, which was an honor to create. That Prophecy is doing these books is imaginative and shows great faith in our work, for which we are incredibly thankful.
How do you feel about the re-release of the debut album Rervm? Is there something about that album in particular special to you that you’d like to share with listeners?
It's great to see Rervm come full circle again, most particularly because it gave us the chance to reimagine some of the songs in acoustic and ambient forms, namely "Aeternvm" and "Lvx." It's a faint glimpse into what spending a few days in our studio is like -- we are constantly tossing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. As Lotus Thief progresses, we are likely going to continue adding trying new ideas. The spirit of Rervm was one of experimentation, so an artbook reimagination of this album was perfect. We go into the story of this album mostly through the eyes of a teacher.
Another thing is the addition of a new female vox, that of my best friend whose chosen name for this project is "Mohrany" (go ahead and scramble them letters and you'll get it), joining me in the singing of "Lvx." We met during college, and despite keeping ourselves in a good degree of mischief, much of what we do is art-based in our adult lives. I hope one day to tour with her and to give the audience the full blast of her storm of vocal power, which is not even the tip of the iceberg on the ambient "Lvx." Most importantly, the artbook edition of this thing gave my students a chance to feature some of their artwork as well, which is the highest honor a teacher can receive, to be trusted with someone else's work as part of a larger concept.
Rervm was such a great starting point for Lotus Thief. It gave me a place to grow from, and philosophically, "De Rervm Natura" is a wonderful first concept in setting the bar for its successors.
What’s on the horizon for Lotus Thief? Are you ushering in anything special for a new decade of music, aside from the new album of course?
We've got three more albums lined up to be hammered into final form over the next decade. We are notorious for taking our sweet time in the studio, and we've thought long and hard about opening the doors of a Patreon or something, to give the listeners a chance to walk through and see the partially-forged pieces become something bigger, to see the players in their creative elements. There is nothing I love more than touring an artist's studio, seeing what makes them tick, which person is OCD neat, which person is the chaotic but productive mess-maker, all of the little bits of personality and fragility that ultimately become something beautiful and meaningful.
Currently, I am building a recording studio on my property, so a large chunk of future albums will be recorded there, and I hope to grow into something of an engineer myself as time, successes and mistakes instruct. I've also got my fingers in several non-Lotus Thief pies, which I am stoked to unveil in the near future. One thing is for sure: I've stopped listening to Oresteia because I can't stop listening to the one coming next. That is a very good sign.
Oresteia releases January 10th, 2020 via Prophecy Productions.