Formed in 2012, Lethe have finally returned with their third full-length offering, Alienation. A supergroup duo consisting of Anna Murphy of Switzerland and Tor-Helge Skei of Norway, Lethe represent the meeting of two top-notch talents. While the incredibly accomplished Murphy is respected for her work with acts like Cellar Darling and formerly Eluveitie, Skei’s current bands include the legendary Manes, Manii, Syning, and Høstsol. An unsurpassed genius, he is one of the leading creators in black metal and experimental music. Skei never ceases to amaze with his innovation. Together, in Lethe, Murphy and Skei craft music so individualistic that it truly stands apart from all else. On Alienation, Lethe demonstrate yet again that they are one of the most interesting outfits around.

A remarkably eclectic album, Alienation incorporates elements of metal, trip-hop, rap, pop, rock, electronic, jazz, etc. Lethe transcend genres and rise above labels. Alienation strongly bears the artistic trademarks of its creators. Thus, the only thing to which Lethe can be compared would be Manes, for instance. Of course, Murphy provided sublimely haunting vocals and mixed Alienation to perfection — the daughter of opera singers, Anna possesses the clear and commanding voice of a goddess. A brilliant songwriter, Skei crafted the miraculous compositions. However, he clarified:

“… everybody involved is influencing and adding their things to the final result.. bit by bit.. everybody is just as important as everybody else.. since anna is half of lethe, her ideas and opinions weigh just as much as mine, so the final music is a combination of the two of us, I guess.. I do more of the initial songs, ideas, concepts, etc., then we work together on the music to finish it, then she is the one in charge of giving a great sound..”

Alienation showcases a variety of special guests: Marita Hellem on vocals, Manes’ Eivind Fjøseide on guitars and synths, ex-Manes’ Tor Arne Helgesen on drums, and the Swiss rapper “K-rip,” or Pierre Ripka. In addition, Alienation features smaller contributions by Manes’ Rune Hoemsnes as well as musician and journalist David Genillard. Fjøseide and Hoemsnes are exceptional talents, who we were glad to hear return to Lethe. We enjoyed Hellem’s appearances on bass and synths with Enevelde in the past. She likewise shines here. Meanwhile, K-rip continues to add a unique ingredient to Lethe. His authoritative French-language lines have a concrete quality and stand in nice contrast to Anna’s vocals, which, strong as they are, also boast a spectral charm. Alienation never suffers from weak aspects or moments. Everyone and everything fall seamlessly into place.

As always, Lethe excel at creating ridiculously gripping and immersive otherworldly atmospheres, whimsical as they are utterly disturbing. Bright and dark elements mingle throughout Alienation. The entrancing compositions flow so beautifully in dreamlike fashion with beats that drum their way into the depths of your psyche. The tracks are unpredictable yet soothing as ingesting a dangerous quantity of the right pills. Alienation will awaken feelings of horror, angst, and, of course, alienness in all of its manifold forms. One might think that an album like Alienation might not be the most organic, but that couldn’t be further from the case. Alienation gives the impression of a nuclear mutant growing uncontrollably.

In our age of posers who claim to bear the torch of avant-garde music but only deliver mediocrity, Lethe dazzle us with truly original work of the highest caliber. As their name suggests, imbibing Lethe’s transformative art will force audiences to forget. Yet, Alienation proves unforgettable. In conclusion, the eerie and cold journey of Alienation couldn’t be more magical.

Rating: 5/5

(Order Lethe’s Alienation here.)