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Lamera - "Apex" (CD/EP)

Lamera - "Apex" CD/EP cover image

"Apex" track listing:

1. Apex Predator
2. Spellbound
3. Bow To Authority
4. Automated System
5. State Of Mind

Reviewed by on November 13, 2009

"Silvio Stolzenthaler's drums power 'Spellbound,' practically as a lead instrument. I really enjoyed the study in contrasts that had Franklin whispering over thrashy guitars, bass and drums. "

People occasionally laugh at me when I say one of the things I like best about heavy metal is its capacity for subtlety amid the brutality - that little click a guitar pick makes as it hits the string right before the squeal of the solo, the bass line that briefly zigs where the main riff zags, the drum part that speeds up or slows down the song even as the rest of the instruments play the same thing they were a few seconds ago. I bring this up because German thrashers Lamera have managed to pack a five song, 22-minute EP full of those little moments, creating a brutally fun listening experience for the discerning ear.

After a few moments of windy sounding white noise, the disc bursts out of the cage like a gnashing fighting dog with "Apex Predator." In the space of less than 30 seconds, we get three distinct riffs from guitarists Tom Franklin and Max Gratzl. Franklin delivers the vocals in a cross between a growl and a howl and it works well for a song this aggressive. And then suddenly the music slows, with a clean guitar in the background and Matej Satovic's bass figuring heavily.

Silvio Stolzenthaler's drums power "Spellbound," practically as a lead instrument. I really enjoyed the study in contrasts that had Franklin whispering over thrashy guitars, bass and drums. Gratzl's lead guitar shines through on "Spellbound," with a surprisingly bluesy solo for such an aggressive song. Toward the end, Satovic's bass takes over in a jazzy outro that is as pleasant as it is unexpected.

"Bow To Authority" has a unique twist on the quiet section as the drums continue to be loud and aggressive as the rest of the instruments turn clean and quiet. It's the best thing in the album's weakest song. The song's not bad, but it lacks some of the spark of the rest of the songs on the disc.

"Automated System" has a great slow-build intro that begins with just one guitar and a snap of a drumstick until the rest of the band gradually enters the picture. The song's stuttering riff never quite lets you get your footing, and that's not a bad thing. Once again, Satovic's bass gets plenty of space to work and Franklin uses the whispered vocals well.

The Pantera-ish "State Of Mind" closes the disc well, with a great, but simple lead guitar break from Gratzl. I will say that by now, the fast-fading-into-slow routine starts to wear a little thin — but the band does it well.

The album's lyrics match the anger of the music. Some might be offended by the use of the word "rape" in "Apex Predator," though the song seems to be more of an indictment of that sort of behavior.

The sound quality is excellent. I loved the fact that I could nearly instantly isolate what each instrument was playing, which is becoming more and more of a rarity in aggressive metal.

Lamera's "Apex" reaches the heights of aggressive metal while adding in unexpected elements of soft melody.

Highs: "Apex Predator," "Automated System," great production.

Lows: "Bow To Authority," though not bad, is the disc's weakest track.

Bottom line: Lamera's "Apex" is aggressive, subtle, and brutally fun.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)