Profound Lore Records had one hell of a year in 2010, with seemingly all of their releases garnering critical praise and ending up on year-end lists, not the least of which was Agalloch's Marrow of the Spirit. It has firmly established itself as the label for thinking-man's metal, and Ludicra's The Tenant is just one more prominent example.
Ludicra shares not only a record label with Agalloch, but also a drummer (Aesop Dekker) and a penchant for writing music that's vaguely related to black metal, but ends up more pretty than black metal's forefathers ever intended. The bass is very prominent throughout the album, grounding things with a groove on opener "Stagnant Pond". It's what actually keeps things sounding metal, as the guitars mostly play high-pitched chords with very little obvious distortion. The drums are simple and unobtrusive, doing exactly as much as they should.
While there are some similarities to other progressive-minded black metal bands (Nachtmystium and Cobalt especially, but also brief similarities to Enslaved) there is also a huge difference: This is decidedly feminine black metal. The primary vocalist (the screecher) and the guitarist/backing vocalist (the clean singer) are both women, and it seems they must be the driving force behind the band. It's certainly not the dude from Slough Feg and Gwar who's writing these pretty, delicate melodies. But by calling it pretty and feminine, I don't mean to diminish any of its metallic qualities. The music still manages to be heavy and even aggressive in some places. It also covers a lot of ground, from the somewhat staccato heaviness of "In Stable", to the doom-like "The Undercaste", to the vaguely psychedelic solo on "A Larger Silence". But mostly it centers on isolated-sounding sadness.
Highlights include "Stagnant Pond", "Clean White Void", and the title track, all of which feature riffs that will definitely stick in your mind. See also the riff that starts around 5:10 on "The Undercaste". "A Larger Silence" is the weakest of the bunch, but even it's not bad. Far from being a cacaphony of necro-sounding tremolo riffs, this is very accessible, yet it still manages to stir the primal parts of your brain stem.
The Verdict: Black metal is usually a man's game. Ludicra gives it a feminine touch, and the album would be worth checking out only for that different perspective. But the music is strong as well, so you really have no excuse not to give it a listen. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.