Lice – Woe Betide You

Brazilian avant-garde Black Metal act Lice probably thinks its name evokes horror, decay, and disease. For me, it mainly brings back memories of my childhood, as I had bottle after bottle of insecticide poured over my head because my leprous sibling had picked up yet another infestation from his dirtbag mates, and we all had to be deloused again. But I digress.

Fortunately, the band’s new album Woe Betide You (Season of Mist) has no references to nit nurses. Sadly, it is still a bit of a curate’s egg, in that there is a lot here which is commendable – and a lot that’s just plain crap.

Let’s start with the good bits. The instrumentals are excellent, and range from Folk in their lyricism, via Christian Death’s morbid guitar warbling. They can sound slow and pensive, almost like Cynic or Bauhaus, before blasting off into complex sections, full of power and passion, or mighty full-on Black Metal guitar and drum assaults.

One minute, the songs segue into a series of varied and complex sections, with a great deal of variety. The next, there are some soulfully bittersweet guitars, and then the drums bounce with a high treble rigour. It can be catchy as hell, even moving.

But with that out of the way, let’s focus on the vocals. Oh, they can – on rare occasion – be somewhat in tune, or even appropriately nasty when the black metal is really erupting. For the most part, however, they are awful. Sometimes they sound a bit like a phone sex pest with laryngitis, who at one point seems to have a mildly disappointing orgasm while his fellow heavy breather moans in the background about “cosmic decay”. Then the phone sex pest starts shrieking again, as if in pain, and with little relation to the music.

Track six, ‘Pride Eraser’, is a case in point. .At almost 10 minutes long, it would be perfectly enjoyable without the vocals. With the vocals, it’s like cystitis. A perfect summary, then, for the album overall. Regardless, the music itself is excellent. But the vocals, meanwhile, carry on doing their own thing. Their own raspy, guttural, aimless and rather depressing thing.

6 / 10