Flowing Tears – Serpentine
21/01/2004 § Leave a comment
Flowing Tears are just one of the scores of bands that fall into that neither-here-nor-there category of Gothic Rock groups formed in the late 90’s, round about the same time that everyone thought they’d do it. I’m just not sure about the whole ‘Gothic’ tag. I would be hard-pressed to call Lacuna Coil Gothic, but everyone seems to like doing that. If people want to define the genre through ignorance, so be it, it’s how most things develop anyway. So here we have Flowing Tears – straight up, unashamed, inoffensive Gothic Rock. You know where you are with this stuff. It’s the same old money-spinner that Century Media have been pedalling for years, it’s just like fodder for the masses, Gothic swill for the metal hoi polloi who’d rather suck their music through a straw than have to bite into it.
In spite of that, and in spite of my ever-growing cynicism about bands like Lacuna Coil, Bloodflowerz and Xandria, which I’d compare Flowing Tears to, I actually like Flowing Tears. There’s just something honest in their sound, something raw, something punchy, something which other similar bands don’t seem to have. In fact, I’d rank them above most of the routine stock that Century Media tosses out. This band actually have depth to their music and are able to create an atmosphere where most fail to.
Vocally this music is slightly different too, Stefanie has a middle-register alto voice, very smooth, very velvety, so taking that into consideration it’s a shame that she’s left the band. The only complaint I have about her voice is the fact that she doesn’t do as much with it as she could. But this is rather the fault of the songs than hers; the music is quite restrictive in this way – though it’s very effective for what it is, it doesn’t give much to the singer to work with, there’s not a lot of room to move. It’s almost like the chord structures are hemming in Stefani’s ability to improvise or to do anything interesting, so she sings within the musical blocks perfectly and in tune, but never letting rip, never pelting out a note that has the wow factor.
Nevertheless, the songs are pretty good. Breach, Justine and Merlin are the standouts, not to mention the wonderful Serpentine. In addition, The Marching Sane is one of those tracks [rather like Epica’s Feint, I like to think] that comes across as being quite boring, but after a few listens you think it’s actually quite good, only to realise after a few more listens that you were right the first time and it is actually boring. In spite of the fact that I’ve got a real soft spot for this band, I get the feeling that they’re imprisoned by their own ‘artistry’. This isn’t an album that screams at you and tries to break barriers, instead, it seems happy swimming around in the boundaries that it’s set itself, a happy goldfish in the Century Media tank, content with its own sparse existence, with no need to do anything different in life apart from move round in circles.
Flowing Tears are a very talented band, and I eagerly look forward to their next album to see what their new singer can come up with. There is, however, a lot of room for improvement. Not in the musicianship, not in the singing, not even in the song-writing, but more in the thinking behind the music. For songs that seem stuffed with pathos its funny that they are sung with so little feeling, but then this has been Cristina Scabbia’s problem ever since Unleashed Memories. I don’t know if it’s a result of being told what to sing or being told what kind of music to play, but I get the feeling that Flowing Tears would be far better off on another label. I’m hoping that then, the underlying frustration in the music, the unseen, almost undetectable ingredient that gives this album its subtle edge, will conspire against the pressure to make normal, middle of the road Gothic rock and turn the next album into something truly special. Serpentine is very good music, but only in its own context. Hopefully, Flowing Tears will have the bravery to steer away from that soon enough.