High school was a strange moment in my life, music-wise. While my classmates were jamming to dubstep and my peers were gushing over Slipknot’s All Hope Is Gone, I was looking up the sickest melodic death metal bands on YouTube and eagerly counting the days to see Dream Theater and Between the Buried and Me live for the first time. I may have seemed like a pretentious little shit, but by then I was very familiar with the rock scene and had already delved into the more extreme variants of metal. That was, until I discovered Lethian Dreams; I was instantly hooked with the theatrics blended with otherwise heavy music. Suffice to say, I fell into the atmospheric/gothic doom metal rabbit hole and was in awe over how familiar – yet unorthodox – bands like them, While Heaven Wept, and Draconian were.
And yet, Lethian Dreams struck me as different from their contemporaries. They were certainly heavy, and the melancholy was ever so present, but they had an ethereal, levitating quality to their sound that really stood out to me. Be it the airy vocals from Carline Van Roos, or the dreamlike atmosphere they employed in all their songs, that crushing serenity was mesmerizing, and told tales of the forlorn that were unmatched by the rest. On their fourth full-length, A Shadow Of Memories, Lethian Dreams maintain this very same tradition. Their craft is intact like a well-preserved artifact on display, never with the intent to push boundaries, but to illustrate for listeners old and new alike the trademark they have achieved for themselves in establishing this musical niche.
The overall flow of this record swings in the fashion of a pendulum, giving you enough space to take in every single detail of each instrument. This time, however, I found the production to be more embracing in comparison to their past efforts. With just an initial listen to the opener, “Never Be Found”, you’re quickly subjected to its meditative trance, complemented by the equally emotive guitar leads and the pounding rhythm section. As mentioned before, Van Roos’ vocal delivery is nothing short of ethereal and brings poise to the heaviness brought forth on this record. Tracks such as the soul-stirring “Tidal” and the cinematic “Your Silence” showcase the poignance emanating from her crooning, while also sporting vocal lines that are positively unconventional.
A band like Lethian Dreams takes great care in making sure you’re immersed in their particular way of building atmosphere. This is captured once again on this record, cloaking you with an icy breeze that is strangely comforting to the senses. Albeit brimming with prolonged feelings of hopelessness, there persists an aura of reflection rather than distress, of acceptance rather than dwelling on regrets. The lyrics translate this very well, such as on the track “Only A Past”, where the feeling of defeat is hinted at, the past is an afterthought, and the only option left in all of this is to patiently succumb to the passage of time – or the ‘whitening years’, quoting British poet Arthur Symons, whose work is a recurring character on A Shadow Of Memories.
As suggested by the title of this album, each track is an anecdote of haunting recollection, capturing the motifs of fear, desire, and loss in such a graceful manner, and displaying them to you with a tact uncommon within the doom metal circles.
Lethian Dreams are a band you can’t help but keep coming back to, and A Shadow Of Memories confirms this sentiment. It is not a record to analyze and nitpick for groundbreaking ideas, but to let yourself be carried by the sound they have greatly established for themselves. Their version of doom metal is one that soothes, grasping for solace in moments of inner turmoil while being exposed to intense yet lush instrumentals. The lulling qualities known of the band are as present as ever on this record, channeling you to a distant realm that, at the same time, makes you feel at ease. Indeed, A Shadow Of Memories is another solid effort from the French doom trio, succeeding once again in crafting music that is as calming as it is vehement – music that sits just right, especially in these complicated times.