Liv-KristineThe work ethic of Liv Kristine seems boundless as this fifth solo album hits the Autumn shelves in the light of her collaboration with Anneke Van Giersbergen and Kari Rueslåtten, the latter of very early 3rd And The Mortal fame, under the recording and touring banner of The Sirens. The recent show at London’s The Garage venue was a triumph with people like myself able to enjoy moments from each of the ladies solo discographies and of course Liv was airing some tunes from “Vervain” which were thoroughly enjoyable.

Liv’s solo work has always sat at a huge distance from her other band Leaves’ Eyes but over the course of the last couple of releases that gap has narrowed slightly as this solo album sees some of the heaviest work she has recorded to date as a solo artist. Opening with “My Wilderness” this ear friendly gothic rock tune has a neat guitar hook and wouldn’t be too amiss on a Leaves’ Eyes album. Liv’s vocals as always are pristine, soaring angelic tones beset by heavenly melody and romanticised tones. A duet with Michelle Darkness on “Love Decay”, also set to be the albums first video single, the tune is cushiony and hugely ear friendly with its massive gothic overtones, Michelle’s contrasting deeper tones compliment Liv’s higher pitch extremely well even when they sing together, neither dominates the tune, each one balanced harmoniously.

The title track is a much heavier affair than you’d expect, tempered by the soft vocal tones raining down within the straight up rock tune. The tune absorbs easily into the brain, sitting there comfortably like a fine wine awaiting to be consumed at any opportune moment and an ability to be memorable yet refined. Also making a guest appearance is Doro Pesch on “Stronghold Of Angels” and I did have doubts as to whether Doro’s more harsher tones would marry up with Liv’s voice but they do and surprisingly so, almost like the pair could make a whole album of tunes together, the bond is cemented resolutely within the song. The song reminded me of very early Theatre Of Tragedy with the piano work and a doom like atmosphere creating a despondent atmosphere as Doro’s voice bears the songs soul for all to share.

There is an equilibrium being struck between the various aural tapestries on the album, with a tune like “Hunters” being far more upbeat than the sadness of “Lotus” which has a sombre piano start. It is these songs of utmost melancholy I found the most entrancing, embracing, eerie and hypnotically suave. The song possesses a piercing lead break I enjoyed tremendously, powerful and emotive it captured the breathing despondency of the tune brilliantly. Interestingly “Elucidation” comes across an electro pop rock tune, similar to the likes of latter era Evereve or maybe even Darkseed. It is exquisitely catchy and thoroughly enjoyable. I have always stated that Liv’s voice is unique in rock and metal and I still stand by that as more and more singers try to emulate her tones on the ever increasing numbers of female fronted metal bands. “Creeper” has an epic feel even though its less than four minutes long, the keyboard and guitar work are linked arm in arm, each courteously giving way to the other when needed at the chorus breaks. Closing the album is “Oblivious” which has Candlemass like doom tone to it, broodingly dark the guitar is soaked in drear gothic gloom as her doleful vocals emphasise a heart wrenching sadness entwined into the fabric of the song. The tune is more complex than at first thought, as the guitar weaves intricate harmonies and dulcet tones around Liv’s vocals which also have a background higher pitch wail which is thoroughly haunting and goes unnoticed if you’re not listening intently enough. Even the spoken parts with a light echo draw powerfully on that intrinsic sorrow as this tune ends the album marvellously and on such a massively memorable note.

I’ve reviewed Liv’s last three studio releases and each shows a progression and digression from previous work done, the sign of a true artist at the peak of her creative force.

(9/10 Martin Harris)