Patent uncoolness is the norm in technical death metal. The genre is chock full of rote riffs and recycled complexities. There's a void here: where's the truly forward-thinking stuff? You shouldn't be able to predict an album's next step or the artist's next impulse. The world is not just about surprise, but intrigue. Ideally, your curiosity is rewarded but never enough. Cue Mithras, dropping their first album in nine years.

On Strange Loops seeks perfection, challenging and tense; boasting about itself, but you fail to mind. The point is to be interesting and, above all else, confident and contemporary. When to repeat choruses and not, and for how long; when a guitar solo is appropriate, and how fancily you lead into it; and what about breaking rules, inversions, diversions?

Really there's no right and wrong. Like David Lynch or Thomas Pynchon, Mithras is both cognitive and psychedelic, serious business and serious fun. Death blasts play a central role, the fill-heavy drumming style broadens the scope for the guitars and vocals. Fast, terrifying guitars. Fast, terrifying vocals. But cohesive, and purposely heavy. Fresh perspective necessitates new connections between worn ideas. Revitalization without destroying the original.

An insightful restoration is not just something to do, but also to say, and fluency in a language needs more than just vocabulary and grammar. You have to invoke history to round out your knowledge. Mithras do not avoid death metal tropes, they know their history. Besides, avoiding tropes at all costs often produces nonsense. We need context, the unreadable but familiar stuff.

Patience is always rewarded; On Strange Loops demands total attention and resolve, the polar opposite of muzak. Intensities have a heartbeat: palpitations, racing moments, or dead sleep. They exist across an improbable substructure (e.g. the cover's cosmos-filled Möbius strip). Likewise, On Strange Loops is postmodern architecture, at first deceiving in its madness, but later reveals its engineering, an alien type, something stupendous.

The first single "Between Scylla And Charybdis" begins electronically -- hair-raisingly electrostatic -- and immediately rips open uncanny riffs, having matured over the course of the album. During many re-listens of On Strange Loops you'll be anticipating your favorite climaxes only to find that it's all just one big climax. Endless denouement, a string of unspeakable intensities draped over something you can't physically grab. The soft interludes, breathing gaps between noise, serve as emotional launchpads, not anesthetic.

On Strange Loops was not stamped out of plastic like a soap opera. It’s a more surreal, nonlinear work; orchestral, leftovers from tradition, but outwardly mystifying and bewildering, real entertainment. Generally, artists speak on multiple levels. In this case, Mithras conjoins subject and object, illuminating a truth: the future does not destroy history, but it can run out of history's sight.

Despite all the enveloping noise, Mithras never attacks the listener or provokes downtrodden vibes. You’re only faced with the reflection of attack and aggression, not actual violence. Fury encompasses you, but On Strange Loops gives you immunity. And an understanding develops. The album tells of adventure too grand to be true, only it is true. It shows you a box, but oddly enough the inside is larger than the outside.

Mithras nails rhythm and cadence; a poppy and smart catchiness permeates On Strange Loops. It doesn't shit on our need to be incessantly pleasured. Writing just a few catchy yet technical riffs is difficult enough, especially when trying to avoid cliché. It's entirely another thing to keep knees bopping during discord, noise-walls, beatless interludes, etc.

Of course On Strange Loops has a raw heart and a lust for top speed. The technicality constitutes a multiverse: obtuse, inverted, and reversed movements, but there's never any fog to conceal the latticework. Blackened influences darken the mood, not dampen. An artsy vibe stands out unpretentiously. On Strange Loops continually reinvents itself, it interprets the concrete with the abstract, and vice versa. That's the brilliance. To create symphony in madness is wonderful and difficult, but finding madness in symphony itself requires true insight.

—Andrew Rothmund



Follow Mithras on Facebook. You can pre-order On Strange Loops here.

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