Ludicra - _Another Great Love Song_
(Alternative Tentacles, 2004)
by: T. DePalma (6.5 out of 10)
Now this is a group who are hard to explain without devaluing their uniqueness or, at the same time, exaggerating it. From San Francisco, California, Ludicra features a member of one of the US's more worthwhile heavy metal bands today: John Cobett of Hammers of Misfortune (ex-The Lord Weird Slough Feg), as well as Ross Sewage, from the grindcore band Impaled. _Another Great Love Song_ is Ludicra's second release, seeking to expand further on its fraternal roots.

Hardcore punk has been an influence on black metal since its earlier incarnations. The joint relationship they share in vituperative intensity and raw aesthetics is not news, but when they are at their best, Ludicra does more than restate the basics. Blending typical dissonances that collapse into rollercoaster melodies, Ludicra present a non-theatrical, but occasionally epic hybrid ("Time Wounds All Heal") with a keen sense of dynamic and energy that sweats from each song.

While acknowledging its impact on their style, the band is reluctant to label themselves purely as black metal, instead referring to themselves as post-black metal or "grey metal" -- an annoying and excessive label, but an accurate shade where many bands, for better or for worse, gather these days. It makes me wonder: have the old favorites, "progressive" or "avant-garde", finally become annihilated by an influx of washed-out keyboard whores, or has the millennium simply required more neologisms that continue to sucker and pretend? In any case, if they hold strong, "Ludicra" alone should be sufficient in the future.

A large part of Ludicra's seduction is found in their vocalist, Laurie Sue Shanaman, snarling as a wolf cornering its prey; for all the screaming, I can still tell that she's a... she. I'm bored of women in metal attempting to compete with their male counterparts as carbon copied brutal growlers. Sometimes it works excellently, while the rest sound incapable, like adolescent boys. What's refreshing is hearing this factor that determines tonal variations being displayed to an advantage and adding personality. Her vocals achieve a great balance of harsh screams crackling into brief moments of human anguish complemented by guitarist Christy Cathar's smooth choral passages.

In contrast to this delivery, the lyrics are purposely written to sound vague and loony, but don't quite match the gravity of the songs. Lamely poetic, filled with all the piss and rage of a high-school snot, Ludicra advises:

"When you paint the town red, why not do it from your veins" ("Why Conquer")

Later pondering:

"A blanket flew into the sky / And still, so what? / On this day... this day... / Disappointment" ("Aging Ghost")

Though Ludicra has found appeal with fans of punk and black metal since their debut album _Hollow Psalms_, the influences of each now on _Another Great Love Song_ seem to be communicated mostly by image, attitude and performance. The actual songs sound like characteristics of both filtered through a dominating heavy metal vibe. (The opening riff of "One Thousand Wolves" is really nothing more than a metalized version of Judas Iscariot's "Black Clouds Rolled Under the Parapet of the Sky".) To their credit, this generally works and does not switch gears rapidly in a novelty approach to structure.

Ludicra's music is not devoid of the artsy connotations of the post-black metal phrase, but all their work thus far has shown a flair for strong riffs and smart composition, revealing some deliciously conceived songs that, for the most part, spare us of pretentiousness; spitting back discontent onto the world ten-fold.


(article published 18/5/2005)

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