Published Oct 19, 2016A perfunctory listen to the dizzying layers of reverb and delay on On Strange Loops might beguile one into thinking there's a lot going on here, but Mithras' latest release leaves much to be desired, particularly in comparison to their earlier output. The majority of these songs delve only deeply enough into themselves for a mere two or three riffs, often repeated in simple verse-chorus-verse formula, before they ramble into a bland soundscape or solo, only to burn out. On Strange Loops is deceptive; the monstrous Mithras tone is as endearing as ever, but the songs themselves are not parting any waves, and instead flounder in the overuse of solos, indulgent attempts at atmospherics and stodgy structures.
This is perhaps On Strange Loops' biggest setback, for rarely does a song venture more than a couple of riffs without the introduction of a solo. Mithras are at their best when they are playing riffs; they're a central part of the band's sound, and their guitar tones complement them perfectly. Yet they don't embrace this idea, and so often take a banal route of lengthy intros, solos and pedal-board gawking that ultimately makes the songs suffer.
"The Statue on the Island" is a perfect example. It begins with a couple of decent riffs, but the solos soon supplant the track, and upon expiring leave the listener back again at the opening theme, without much having been accomplished. It doesn't help that this comes after the first two tracks, which similarly go nowhere interesting: the opener is a four-minute intro, with the same one chord struck monotonously, while "When the Stars Align" is one of the weakest cuts on the album, embodying all of this preceding criticism.
The best moments here occur intermittently, in the album's middle. "Part the Ways" has the benefit of not shouldering another protracted intro or instrumental segment, and thus avoids said criticism. Likewise, "Howling of the Distant Species," once it takes off after its shorter (1:12) prelude, reminds the audience that Mithras can still forge some killer riffs.
The ensemble of "Between Scylla and Charybdis" and "Time Never Lasts," which together make up a single musical idea, feature some of the album's best riffs, and between the two pieces manage to pick up the slack without falling too far into theatrics. However, nine years since their previous LP, On Strange Loops feels like it has enough good material for a four or five song EP, and is spoiled by a lack of provocative songwriting. (Willowtip)