LochVostokLoch Vostok blew me away with their previous album “V: The Doctrine Decoded” (2012). Their other albums are pretty good too.

The latest one “From These Waters” is self-proclaimed as grittier than the others, and I’d go along with that. The opening two tracks go about proving that point. They’re gritty indeed with big dosages of thrash. But I thought that the swirling and transforming “Like Poison to the Stars” is too sophisticated as if Loch Vostok had a plot which thickens and is ultimately lost.

There’s no doubting for me what the highlight is of this album. The title track is sublime. The band are now in the groove. “From These Waters” is heavy and enhanced by its melody and impeccably catchy structure. The distinctive vocals make a big track bigger. Nerve-jangling sensations run through my spine. But sadly the rest of this album failed to reach these heights. Climactic moments threaten but don’t rise above the parapet. “Fighting Fire with Blood” has epic qualities but I’m not sure there’s emotion. The thrashy growls don’t mix with the flat harmonies. It’s kind of melodic but not melodious. I concluded after listening to this album a few times that the combinations don’t work. ”Lost in Transmutance” is unusually slow but although it picks up with deep growls and cries to go with it, the vocalist’s tone is too rough for this sort of melancholy and it’s too leaden. Time after time, the mix of aggressiveness and slow harmony doesn’t work for me any more than, say, beetroot flavoured ice cream.

It’s evident that Loch Vostok are trying something here but the slow sections are just not that great. “Sentiment” threatened to send my blood racing again and appeals to the senses with an energetic pace, smooth passages and a melody which is not dissimilar to Mercenary’s “The Hours that Remain”. The deathly growls are impressive and frequent but again this progressive style seems to be incomplete. “Me Forgotten” has plenty going for it but typically of this album, changes ambiance so many times that it becomes pointless and left me behind. Through constant battery, growls and harshness, the chorus doesn’t work after an electronic industrial opening, and the plaintive cries of the vocalist just get lost in the hubbub. If there was any significance, it didn’t come through and “Me Forgotten” lives up to its title and ends without ceremony or progress. One unmemorable track later, it’s all over.

The instrumentals are vibrant and there is that one special track but I was disappointed with this album, which lacked definition and even spirit at times, as if Loch Vostok were going through the motions of layered album tracks without obvious purpose. Yet it can’t be like that. I can only surmise Loch Vostok have lived up to their progressive reputation here, and mixed an album with abundant ideas. Unfortunately the bunch of contrasting styles don’t work and left me feeling flat and mostly underwhelmed.

(6/10 Andrew Doherty)