Mithras’ On Strange Loops is Strange, Loopy

A strange loop is a phenomenon that occurs when ascending or descending something in hierarchical order and coming back to the start; as such, there is no well-defined starting or ending point. There are plenty of strange loops we’re all familiar with- the “chicken or the egg” paradox, the Ouroboros, much of M.C. Escher’s work, the movie Groundhog’s Day. It’s a simple concept, but one that has a vast impact in the worlds of mathematics and philosophy, particularly pertaining to the concept of “self.” I highly recommend checking out Douglas Hofstadter’s books Gödel, Escher, Bach or I Am a Strange Loop (or at least reading over the Wikipedia article)  if you’re interested in reading about the phenomenon, as it’s far too deep for me to really do justice here.

That’s all well and good, but what does it have to do with On Strange Loops beyond the title? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Mithras does justice to the album’s namesake, tying the strange loop into the music itself. It’s repetitive and self-referential throughout, and the final song, “On Strange Loops,” uses the lyrics from opener “Why Do We Live?” to close itself out. It’s not just these two songs that tie in, though; the whole album does. Each song flows into the next, which isn’t exactly a groundbreaking idea, but the brilliance here is that any of these tracks could feasibly be the start or endpoint of the album. I played around with this a bit, starting a full listen of the album on different tracks, and it works for just about every song. Second song “When the Stars Align” unfortunately doesn’t work the best as an opener, as “Why Do We Live?” is too much of an intro track to really work as a closer. It would have been cool had the band been able to do this for the entire album, but that’s maybe asking too much from this concept. And maybe I’m looking for meaning that isn’t there, but it’s hard not to with an idea as heady as this.

As admirable as it is making the music work with the philosophy behind it, none of that matters if it’s not well-written. It should come as no surprise that Mithras fully delivers on that front as well. As previously mentioned, some of the songs are fairly repetitive and surprisingly simple. For example, “Between Scylla and Charybdis” is comprised of only two riffs and a short guitar solo, but I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the most stunning songs I’ve heard this year. And that’s the way of the album; straightforward, but profoundly impactful. On Strange Loops is melodic, deliberate, and elegant, a far cry from the brutal death metal norm. Multi-instrumentalist Leon Macy’s barked vocals are harsh, but well-enunciated and as deliberately delivered as his guitar lines. The drums are insane, barreling forth with unbelievable intensity and aplomb, and the bass rounds out the riffs with its hefty low-end crunch.


All of this is supplemented by sublime production and effects. The rhythm guitars are both earthy and fiery, rich and warm. Leads contrast this with layers of tastefully implemented delay and reverb, which are also occasionally used on the vocals to similar effect. The drums, always a point of contention in this style of music, sound fantastic; if they’re triggered, I can’t tell. My single favorite effect is the Shephard-Risset glissando on “Inside the Godmind,” a sort of tone-layering trick that creates an audio strange loop as it slides slowly down the scale.

I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy On Strange Loops going into it, but I found myself replaying it immediately at the end of my first listen. And the one after that. With the end of each listen, I find myself eagerly looking forward to the beginning coming around again. The concept and execution are equally brilliant, though I wish I would have had lyrics on hand as I listened to it, as I’m sure there were some ideas lost on me as my concentration drifted off the vocals and to the guitar. It’s an album you can dive headfirst into as I have, but it works equally well as surface-level listening. You can make it exactly as deep or as shallow an experience as you want, and for that I give it:

∞/0 Toilets in Space


On Strange Loops is out Friday, October 21st via Willowtip Records, and is streaming in full at TeamRock. You can find the band on Facebook, and if you live in the UK, you can catch them on tour starting October 26th (dates here).

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Published on: October 19, 2016

Filled Under: Metal, Reviews

Views: 927

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    • Scrimm


    • W.
      • They played this on AMC last weekend!

        • W.

          yah, Joe, Leif, and I watched it.

        • Scrimm

          Only one I really like

          • Funny, I tend to agree. I actually enjoy 4 quite a bit too. Really fun movies.

          • Scrimm

            4 is fun too. In all honesty I don’t like Wes Craven.

          • Scream is the worst Horror movie series ever.

          • Scrimm

            I get really angry when people mention it along with the true greats. It’s an embarrassment to the genre

          • I can’t agree anymore.

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            It really fell on it’s own knife. In attempting to mock the entire genre it’s just ended up mocking itself.

          • Well put!

          • W.

            Did you like Cabin in the Woods?

          • I didn’t think it was bad, but I wasn’t too impressed by it. It was fun though.

          • W.

            I think Wes Craven is pretty overrated.

          • Bingo. Although I really love The People Under the Stairs. That’s my all time favorite by him.

          • Scrimm

            Same here. Easily the best.

          • xengineofdeathx

            The Serpent and the Rainbow tho.

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    This is a very intriguing concept, i may have to delve into this.

    Great work Spear!

  • Maik Beninton™
  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    that’s some beautiful guitar tone yes yes

  • nbm02ss

    This reminds me of Morbid Angel’s “Gateways to Annihilation”. Me rikey.

  • Joaquin Stick

    Looking forward to hearing more of this. Love that intro on Odyssey’s End, if you can call 3 minutes an intro. Nice job Spear.

  • Pentagram Sam

    The concept of the album sounds really interesting. There’s a few albums that do the “close with a refrain from the opener” but haven’t heard someone take it to this level where the “concept” isn’t a story, but a musical theme that goes over the whole disc

    Nightingale’s The Breathing Shadow has a lyrical callback to Nightfall Overture at the end of Eye For An Eye.

    Labyrinth’s Return To Heaven Denied has Die For Freedom as the last song and it ends with a variation of the intro theme from Moonlight. The cool thing is, it fades out on Die For Freedom and fades in on Moonlight.

    • W.

      As much as we like to make fun of them, Dream Theater had a sort of meta-continuity like this where albums would open with the closing notes of the previous record, and individual songs would replay motifs in a cyclical manner.

      • Pentagram Sam

        Damn, I haven’t listened to too much DT since Scenes, so that’s pretty cool to find out. Was thinking about Scenes too and how stuff would pop up throughout, but since it was a whole big story thing, it’s a bit different.

        Funny thing was, Scenes was the first studio album I got of theirs, and the way the book layout was with looking like an actual theater playbill made me think these guys were the most serious of serious musicians ever.

        • W.

          I rarely listen to DT anymore because their output since Systematic Chaos is boring as hell, but I’ll still put on Scenes every now and then.

          • Joaquin Stick

            I haven’t listened to that in like 5 years. I might do that now. I’m in the mood for a nostalgia trip.

    • Damage_Inc89

      Hammers of Misfortune does this all the time. One of my all-time favorite bands. Slough Feg has done that a little bit as well (Traveller album is what comes to mind).

      • Damage_Inc89

        To clarify, (not that I think anyone else seems to have mistaken my meaning, but re-reading my own wording still feels kinda off regardless), I meant HoM and Slough Feg have both done this before, but not in a “been there, done that” kinda way, just in a “hey this is neat” kinda way.

        EDIT: And I’ll also take any opportunity I can to extol the virtues of Hammers of Misfortune (and pretty much anything any of their members are involved in).

    • The Tetrachord of Archytas

      It’s how much of the music considered “classical” is written. Often times several themes woven in and out of a large scale work.


    • Also I’m hoping against hopeople they can tour over here in the US.

  • Spear

    Slight error on my part: vocals were done by bassist Rayner Coss, who is apparently no longer part of the group.

  • AndySynn

    FYI, it’s still Rayner, not Leon, doing the vocals on this one (though he has since left the band).

    • Spear

      Yep, I discovered that shortly before this went up. My bad.

      • AndySynn

        No worries. Easy mistake to make since Rayner left before the album was finished (though after completing his vocal parts)!

  • Hey Spear, do they make any use of keyboards or electronic choirs like on last year’s Sarpanitum record? They created some truly jaw-dropping melodies there. I know Leon was drumming on that one, not working the keys, but it wouldn’t be too far off from Mithras’ currently existing sonic blueprint.

    • Spear

      There’s a little bit in there, but it’s more subtle.

      • Gotcha. Still looking forward to it when it releases. I can’t believe we have new Decrepit Birth on the way still too, all the spacey tech death bands are just showering us this year.

        • Spear

          Oh man, I totally forgot about Decrepit Birth! I’m so ready for that.

          • And if that turns out to be disappointing, well, Virvum’s record was pretty much everything I wanted and more out of a new Decrepit Birth album.

          • Waynecro


          • Just listened to it again this morning, thinking about submitting a short-form review. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

          • Waynecro

            Nice, dude! You should do it. It’s probably my favorite tech-death album of 2016 so far.

          • High praise, dude, especially given its competition.

          • Waynecro

            For sure. I mean, it’s not the heaviest tech-death album by any means, but something about the compositions really work for me. All the songs are very moving and memorable, which isn’t always the case with tech-death songs.

          • I know what you mean. I’m a big fan of the “gorgeous, soaring melodies” approach to technical metal that feels like it’s been cropping up more in recent years.

          • Waynecro

            I really love a lot of melody in my tech death, and Illuminance definitely soars. Man, when “The Cypher Supreme” kicks in, you just know the rest of the album is going to be epic.

    • Leon Macey

      The choirs on the new one are all real vocals multitracked up to create a massive choir, so no synthetic choirs on “Loops”, Sarpanitum was synthetic choirs which still sounded cool. There’s barely any synths on the new Mithras album, just a few pad sounds here and there in the background (like the outro to the title song). Most of the “synth” sounds are guitar or bass guitar with a bass synth pedal.

  • Sir Crawfish The Based

    Me likey.

    • (thx for the thing bby! Miss seeing you around here)

      • Sir Crawfish The Based

        I’m always here, if not in the flesh, then in spirit.

  • Nipples ‘n’ Such

    Excellent review Spear! This album is fantastic, I really dig it. One of this year’s best releases IMO.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      “n’ such” hahaha!

  • I want to check this, great review, brother Spear!

  • W.

    This album is pretty rockin!

  • AeonsOvChaos

    If you want some bestial Death/Black Metal inside your guts click here, desecration has begun:

  • Damage_Inc89

    Really loving this so far. I don’t think I’ve really checked out any of their previous stuff before this, either. I fell head over heels for Sarpanitum’s last album though, and I think at least two guys are in both bands.

    I was searching around online trying to see if there was any word of Blessed Be My Brothers being issued on vinyl, but no luck. Came across the FB page for Sarpanitum though, and they mentioned Mithras.

  • I finally listened to Howls of Ebb this morning and its’ one of very few albums this year to get an IMMEDIATE respin

  • Waynecro

    Kick-ass review, Spear! Thanks! I’m really looking forward to hearing the entire album. What I’ve heard so far reminds me of a mix of Morbid Angel and Martyr. I dig it!

  • Leif Bearikson

    Mithras and the Toilet? On Strange Poops

  • Leon Macey

    “My single favorite effect is the Shephard-Risset glissando on “Inside
    the Godmind,” a sort of tone-layering trick that creates an audio
    strange loop as it slides slowly down the scale.”

    Well spotted! There’s a few shepard tones on the record, either as riffs, leads or otherwise I’m wondering if anyone will spot them all 🙂

    Just a correction for the review; Rayner Coss performed vocals/bass on the record, I only recently took over the vocal role after Rayner left.

    Also we didn’t intend for any song to be taken as a possible starting point (that would make it very difficult to structure the album musically in the way we wanted) but it’s awesome you attempted to test that idea with the different track starting points and it’s cool it was close to working anyway. The ‘Strange Loop’ concept is tied up lyrically in the story behind the album (I know you didn’t have the lyrics to check that out), but we also tried to represent it musically in a few forms

    • TovH IS FAMOUS!!!

    • Spear

      Thanks for the response! I definitely plan on going through again (and again and again) looking for those Shephard tones and putting together the story. And I apologize for the misinformation; I had only taken a cursory look at the Facebook “members” section to see who did what, not realizing that Rayner had left.

      As to the multiple potential starting points thing, I knew as I was testing it that it was probably unintended. I still thought it was interesting that it largely worked, so I figured I’d include it in the review. In any case, I’ve been enjoying the album quite thoroughly.

  • The David Lynch film Lost Highway is the strangest loop I’ve ever, uh, looped.

  • Brouroboris

    “The rhythm guitars are both earthy and fiery, rich and warm.” This sentence made me happier than it had any right to.

  • Brouroboris

    Also Godel, Escher, Bach is one of the most challenging reads i’ve ever attempted. That book is sitting on my shelf until i feel i’ve reached super computer levels of intelligence.