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Mekong Delta

A riddle wrapped in an enigma dressed up in leather and studs, Germany's Mekong Delta perplexed the heavy metal world both by playing an unconventional brand of progressive thrash and by keeping the identities of the bandmembers secret for the first five years of a career starting in 1987. The reality was far more mundane than the rumors, as it turned out, since it was later revealed that the group had originally been masterminded by Aaarrg Records owner Ralph Hubert, who wished to pair up members of existing bands like Rage and Living Death without incurring the wrath of the labels they were signed to. Hubert didn't even intend to participate in the whole charade at first, but took on the role of bass player and the pseudonym of Björn Eklund when Rage's Peavy Wagner bowed out early on, then completed the initial Mekong Delta lineup with vocalist Kell (real name Wolfgang Borgmann), guitarists Rolf Stein and Vincent St. John (actually Living Death members Frank Fricke and Reiner Kelch), and drummer Gordon Perkins (in reality future journeyman Jörg Michael, then also a member of Rage). This was the quintet responsible for 1987's conceptually unified Mekong Delta debut, which not surprisingly delved into the Vietnam War, as well as 1988's The Gnome EP and H.P. Lovecraft-inspired The Music of Erich Zann LP -- all of which drew much critical acclaim and saw the band sometimes described as a Teutonic response to Canadian prog-thrashers Voivod. Membership changes began to take place behind the scenes with Uwe Baltrusch's replacement of Kelch for 1989's The Principle of Doubt album (which was loosely based on Stephen R. Donaldson's dark fantasy trilogy, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever), and by the release of 1990's Dances of Death, Fricke too was gone, Doug Lee had replaced Borgmann, and all of the fake names had finally been dropped, save for Jörg Michael's, since he remained under contract elsewhere. Still, although their secrets had largely been exposed, Mekong Delta's music continued to surprise and astound, thanks to the steady infusion of classical music elements into their ever-adventurous prog-thrash. Though these elements had already featured to some degree on all of Mekong Delta's prior releases, it was 1991's Live at an Exhibition in-concert document that first hinted at a particularly strong fixation on the works of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, which the band later explored in full with an orchestra-backed recording of Pictures at an Exhibition in 1997. In between, drummer Peter Haas had joined the group for albums like 1992's Kaleidoscope and 1994's Visions Fugitives, but after the release of the aforementioned orchestral project, Mekong Delta went into an extended hibernation, as sporadic rumors swirled concerning the supposed exile and/or death of prime mover Ralph Hubert. In keeping with the band's past history, however, all of this speculation proved to be just that and, come 2007, Hubert convened a brand-new Mekong Delta featuring singer Leszek Szpigiel, guitarist Peter Lake, and drummer Uli Kusch for new album Lurking Fear, which by all accounts proved as reliably quirky and unpredictable as anything that fans might have expected from this mysterious group.
© Eduardo Rivadavia /TiVo
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