Midnattsol – Where Twilight Dwells
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.