01/05/2005 § Leave a comment
I had been waiting ages for this one. However, Forever Slave seem to be in the habit of shooting themselves in the foot. The minute I heard about this band I got all excited since I love the idea of black metal with female vocals. So as soon as news reached me that Forever Slave’s demo was released I went over to their site to see one of the most bleak websites I’ve ever come across. A cyber-wilderness, a blank canvas promising updates only soon, but there was an offer to ‘purchase’ their demo. Being the mug that I am I shelled out the necessary amount of cash for it and after a month and it still hadn’t turned up. After a couple more weeks I got an email from PayPal saying “your money has been returned to your account since it was not collected by the vendor for over a month”. This shocked me since I thought bands were in the habit of picking up cash whenever they could, obviously something had gone seriously wrong. But the lack of updates on the website, the bad vendoring, the lack of any decent samples led me to lose hope in this band, not to mention various other stories I had heard about their mismanagement.
Finally I managed to get hold of Resurrection a few days ago. I wasn’t expecting anything special, just something listenable with maybe a glimmer of hope shining out of the tracks that we had a promising band on our hands. However, I wasn’t totally shocked when half way into the second track it was clear that this demo was a load of tripe. Lady Angelica clearly has a dream to be some kind of uber Gothic songstress as well as a model, so she’s arguably getting into this music for the wrong reasons. Not because she’s a vocal talent, for God’s sake she’s not, her vocals are some of the worst of any Gothic Metal album I have heard. Though she manages to keep more or less in tune, the tone of her voice is a horrible one and she sounds like she has someone’s hands round her throat while she’s pelting out the notes [if only] since the singing is so strained and unnatural, and her diction is non-existent. It’s all very well to have aspirations of being a singer, but from this it’s clear that she has very little talent in this way. There are some nice tunes, in places, such as Beyond Death’s Embrace and In Autumnal Equinox, but these in their own rights are not good or special enough to justify filling the space in your auditory canals with anything but air.
The songs themselves are bare, barren attempts at clichéd Gothic metal, with plain guitar riffs, boring melodies and one of the worst sins that any band can commit, the guitars and synths following the vocal lines to the note. In some places the synths are so naff that they sound as if they were taken from an episode of Quincy or The Rockford Files. Forever Slave want to be a good band, but it’s apparent that they’ve put the cart before the horse – they’re making music to get recognised, rather than making music that is naturally good. This is a potentialless record. I see very little of worth coming out of this lot in the future and if they do produce anything decent over the next couple of years I will buy a hat just so I can eat it. For the rest of you though, there are far better discs you can spend your money and time on.
01/05/2005 § Leave a comment
Where would we be without siblings, eh. It’s always difficult when you consider yourself to be a spectacular talent and then one of your brothers or sisters comes into the limelight and begins to hog it. All of a sudden the memories come gushing back of past rivalries – Carmen used to get more chips than me, Carmen could go to bed later, and then, Carmen released a better debut album. You see, it’s only one short hop from competing at dinner portion sizes to getting albums released by major labels. Life can be difficult sometimes, especially since Midnattsol, for me at least, came out of nowhere offering Gothic Metal debut with a folk twist, lush sound production and some really rather good numbers, and for a first album, has a little more to offer than Leaves’ Eyes, not to mention a name that makes a little more sense. To me at least.
It shouldn’t take a Mastermind winner to work out by now that there’s a link between Carmen Elise from Midnattsol and Liv Kristine from Leaves’ Eyes, and indeed the link is that they are sisters. I had no idea that Carmen existed, let alone could sing and it was inevitable that the comparisons would start rearing their ugly heads as soon as Where Twilight Dwells was released. Well, how dare we. Can we not judge an album on its own merits? Of course we can’t, especially when the two are so damn similar, the only difference being that Where Twilight Dwells has a little more to offer than Lovelorn. Even if Liv and Carmen weren’t related, the comparisons would come thicker and faster than a blue whale at the height of mating season [four gallons if you must know]. There’s just so little difference between the two.
But what makes Where Twilight Dwells pip its challenger to the post? It’s pretty clear whilst listening to the first couple of minutes of Another Return that Midnattsol have some very complete and powerful tunes up their bunad sleeves. The guitars are creamy and full of strength, and there’s some nice drumwork going on, the kind of powerful bass-trilling that also befits bands like Sirenia so well. Not only that, but the production is gorgeous with the mix being more or less perfect. Carmen’s voice is unsurprisingly similar to her sister’s, the only problem being that it hasn’t matured well enough yet and there are quite a few instances where she’s a little off, especially in Haunted there are a few notes which are a tiny bit painful. Still, I’m prepared to forego this shortcoming, since the overall atmosphere generated by the music is a little special because the ensemble have injected an element of folk into the songwriting. It doesn’t go overboard or get too ostentatious either, but adds a slightly different lilt to the tunes which makes them more interesting than a lot of other Gothic Metal mush being thrown out by Napalm, and this is shown very well in songs like Lament, Desolation and Infinita Fairytale. Indeed, it’s a welcome relief.
Midnattsol also manage to throw in a few acoustic songs which befit the album rather well. Unpayable Silence comes across very well in this way, and not to mention Tårefall, where Carmen sounds a little more mature since the melody is clearly far suited to what her voice can do, which makes you wonder whether this genre really is the best thing for her. Still, whether she would be better off twisting her vocals round Morris dancing numbers or neat folk ditties is academic since she does sound rather good here, though I imagine by the next album she’ll sound a lot better. It’s quite obvious that she needs to do a little bit of development though, and she’ll do well as long as she doesn’t fall into the same trap as her sister, which is to sing a little thoughtlessly in places and to slide off the notes.
I have to say I hold out a lot of hope for this band. I like the feel of the songs and though the atmosphere they create is tangible, it’s not quite as vivid as I would like. Thankfully they also manage to create some good feelings with their softer songs, and this is shown nowhere better than in Tapt Av Håp. The only problem the album really shows is that there are a couple of tunes, such as Dancing With The Moonlight and Enlightenment, which really shouldn’t be there at all since they’re so awfully bland, they drag the album down and make the listener realise that there’s really not an awful lot of variety in the songs in spite of the fact that the band do try to throw some in. As a debut, its really not a bad one, but there is still a lot of room for development here. Midnattsol need to get some more distinguishable songs and not be too scared to make their numbers even more folky. Gothic Metal is not altogether an unforgiving genre and the next time round they could actually come up with something pretty special. There is a lot of potential here, and watching it grow should – justifiably – be a satisfying process.