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Album Reviews : Dead Letter Opener – Lumen

By on August 15, 2010

For a long time now, the Australian metal scene has struggled to make a significant splash in the international heavy music ocean, however with the recent success seen by varied acts such as Psycroptic, Portal and Parkway Drive, the potential for other bands to break into the lucrative North American and European markets has never been higher. Hailing from Brisbane, three piece Dead Letter Opener (not to be confused by Dead Letter Circus) might just one of the next acts to truly turn global. Led by multi instrumentalist and vocalist Mick Millard, DLC’s debut “Lumen” dropped in mid 2009 via home grown label Obsidian Records.

With trios still something of a novelty in metal, it’s always a sign of high class musicianship and cohesion amongst a band to create music that doesn’t sacrifice any details and quality despite lack of band members. Of course, in the studio anyone can layer dozens of guitar and keyboard parts, but “Lumen” feels that, for the lack of better words, raw yet manageable – basically the thought of the band playing these songs live is not really a stretch of the imagination at all.

The rampaging opener “Light of Day” is strong sign of intent from the band, with Richie Young’s monstrous drum attack driving the tune along at a blitzkrieg pace, while follower “Till Death Arrives” throws tremolo picked guitars, string sections and mournful clean vocals into the pot as it veers exceptionally close to black metal territory.

“Jetstream” is easily one of the wildcards on the record, featuring electronic glitches, synth pads and haunting clean vocals – definitely not something that a large majority of listeners would expect after the heavy album openers. Despite its strangeness, it serves as one of the highlights on the album, it should be interesting to see if the song was simply a one off for the band or if future releases also feature such detours. The prog tinged “Small Furry Animals” chucks in a very Opeth-esque section not long after the flailing intro, as whispered vocals dance over the top of chorused guitars and intricate rhythms, while the staggering “Brutal Vengeance” is based on a looping riff and darker verses before descending into a very impressive clean chorus.

Production wise the album isn’t the polished product of a high end American/Swedish studio, but considering it was recorded at the band members home studios it’s a good example of how home recording programs have evolved into very professional sounding entities. However the most obvious fault that “Lumen” possesses – and of course this is just down to the opinion of the reviewer – is the fact that at times you feel like you’re listening to a compilation cd for the record company, as opposed to a single band. Not that there is anything wrong with bands expanding their musical horizons, but the trio are definitely at their strongest when they’re serving up songs that embrace their slightly darker side, and also show off Milllard’s under used clean vocals.

“Lumen” is an impressive debut and would be lapped up by those who enjoy the more progressive end of the metal spectrums – and with perhaps a slightly more focused follow up record the band may just have what it takes to break through the glass ceiling into the international market. 8/10

Band: Dead Letter Opener
Album: Lumen
Year: 2009
Genre: Progressive Metal
Origin: Brisbane, Australia
Label: Obsidian Records

Track listing:
1. Light of Day
2. Till Death Arrives
3. Small Furry Animals
4. Brutal Vengeance
5. Anger Management
6. Reflect
7. Retract
8. Jetstream
9. The Iron Curtain
10. 7 Weeks


Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.