Contrary to the average music fan's perception that black metal automatically equals singers who sound like they're gargling battery acid and relentless, guitar-in-a-Cuisinart riffs, the better bands of the genre actually employ a sonic palette considerably broader than most heavy rock. Local outfit Ludicra indulges in plenty of vocal-chord shredding and six-string pummeling on its sophomore release, Another Great Love Song, but balances the dark-hearted mayhem with dynamic songwriting that sometimes recalls prog-influenced Swedish giants Opeth. Helmed by metal avatar John Cobbett (the architect behind the equally ambitious Hammers of Misfortune), Ludicra forgoes the satanic jargon that plagues most black metal in favor of an emotional, almost existential despair. Album opener "The Only Curse, the Only Remedy" explodes after its ominous, acoustic-tinged intro, diving headlong into a thicket of aggressive snare-drum punishment and jagged riffs. Guitarist/vocalist Christy Cather and lead singer Laurie Sue Shanaman move easily from tandem feral growling to ethereal harmonizing on "Why Conquer?" and "Let Thirst the Soil," alternately giving the songs a desperate edge and flashes of melancholic beauty. Oppressive stuff for sure, but undoubtedly one of the more impressive metal releases to come out of the Bay Area or anywhere else this year.
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