I thoroughly enjoyed The Massacre Cave’s mini album “The Ninth Wave” (2012) – lots of ideas and well executed – and was very pleased to be reunited with them in the form of their new album “Godlust”. The band is from the Hebridean island of Eigg, which does play a part in their creative process, but so does their fine balance of technical and melodic progressive metal.

A compelling technical rhythm starts this journey off. It’s very easy to become hypnotised in the whirling, twirling “We Own the Sun”. There’s a nice switch three minutes in. Less keen on the sound of the vocals, which fall between shouting and chanting and don’t have the strength of these irresistible instrumentals. The ending is dark and ominous. I thought it was going to lead to something but out came the more rock driven “From the Mountains”. Now here the death vocals work. The drums pump and in common with “We Own the Sun”, there’s a break as a short wistful passage takes over before we’re colourfully back on the road again. It’s a confident mix of styles and it’s adventurous. Quiet mixes with fury. Too many ideas in a 6-minute space? Possibly, but they are good ones. Listen to it some more, I found, and I was loving it. That distant vocal features on “An Itchy Finger”, another loud and proud technical thrash fest. It’s a challenging number, reminiscent in certain ways of Entombed in atmosphere and vocals, and Darkane in anarchy.

On the face of it, this is a harsh affair. I was grateful for a band member’s accompanying explanation that this album isn’t one of those personal, shoegazy type affairs – that much is obvious from just 10 seconds of casual listening – but rather what Godlust is: “men lusting after power and then distorting their objectives once they achieve that power”. But it’s far from just harsh truths from harsh climes. The technical construction is clever, and the album has many surprise elements, none more so than a sublime dreamy interlude on one of my favourite tracks here “Tetramethrin”. The song is actually quite catchy. It is also the prelude to the acoustic “Godfrey”. Cymbals shimmer like lapping waves. The scene is for once calm, shoegazy even. The start of “Fighting Giants” has a folksy air, and as I have discovered is the norm for The Massacre Cave, there is no single template as the driving force has more than an air of Opeth, with that Entombed Death n Roll style mixed in there. We hear seagulls and somehow an acoustic lullaby blends with technical death. The rhythm in fact has the air in it of a country dance – appropriately so. As one of the band members explains, the traditional element is unavoidable from a band coming from the Hebrides, and there’s a “Strip the Willow” element about most of the riffs. But it’s not contrived in any way and not even overtly obvious, and adds to the considerable intrigue of this music. “Red Death” is the hardcore chant chorus of the thrash n roll number which follows. The rhythm is twisty but this is The Massacre Cave’s version of simplicity. The pièce de résistance for me is the title track, which closes the album. It’s as if what’s gone before has been building up this eight minute epic. Spooky, smooth, powerful, reflective and harsh … “Godlust” pulls together the technical and instrumental splendour and the dramatic build-up which are just part of the armoury of this immensely talented band.

There’s such a lot here to assimilate. At times this album almost too much to take in, and the way that tracks are constructed and the album is put together, it’s like being a witness to an experiment in multi-genre metal music. At 40 or so minutes it’s not long, and I wondered if this album would make more sense if the passages had been spaced out more. I can’t say my ears found it flawless at first but they developed a relationship with “Godlust”. There’s no doubt it gets better with each listen as sophisticated and progressively styled albums do and that’s always a plus point. If at first I was bewildered by the continuity, I was always more than impressed by the dazzling display of musicianship. The technical skill in the harsher and reflective passages is astounding, and born of layers of creative ideas which make “Godlust” both challenging and transfixing. I’ve never been lucky enough to see a live show by The Massacre Cave but I imagine they bring a room to life. This highly original album takes us on an energetic journey to other spheres, and I sense that there’s plenty more in this band’s tank.

(9/10 Andrew Doherty)