Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lake of Tears - Headstones (1995)

I remember the first time I heard this album - I found it a glorious experience. Black Mark were a relatively new label on the scene and suddenly our local stores were carrying four different titles - this and Tad Morose were the two that caught my eye (the others being of a rather less melodious nature). I was going through my goth phase at the time - you know the sort - black clothes, morbid music, gloomy music, writing bad poetry. Actually, the poetry was not too bad at all, but that's beside the point. I was also a poor student, so it was some time before I actually could afford to buy them, but luckily the library had a copy for me to hire and thrash.And thrash it I did!

Lake of Tears are a Swedish band, formed around 1990. In the early days, they had a very heavy, slow doom-gloom-goth sound but this later caught an edge of psychadelia and took some surprising, but wonderful, transformations. I shall share those albums with you later. Around 2000, after four albums, they broke up, then got back together again in 2003 releasing a further two albums. Somewhere in the middle there was "Neonai", recorded to fulfil their contract with Black Mark (and I am grateful that they did). They have just released an album entiteld "Illwill" which is apparently death metal, but I'm listening to House of the Setting Sun on YouTube and it is definitely NOT death metal. Ooooh, it's giving me shivers - in a good way.

If you wish to try Lake of Tears for yourself - they have TWO "Greatest hits" compilations. So, well worth it. Of course, I own all but two of their cds (the first and the last) so I think I'll be okay.

I WILL NOT buy Illwill, I MUST stop buying more cds! I haven't even listened to "Moonlight and Mushrooms" properly yet.

Anyhow, back on track.

This is their second album, and it introduces melody to the hardcore ragged sound of their debut album, "Greater Art". "Headstones" is a brilliant, gloom laden album.  Daniel Brennare's voice is capable of so much more than grunts and growls. It has a melancholic cover - a figure pinned to a tree with ivy, a cemetary in behind. How very gothic. Not much inside but the lyrics.

A shrill guitar squeal leads us into the burgeoning bass and the powerful force that brings us into "A Foreign Road". Brennare's vocals are rich and deep, the sort that brings a shiver to your spine (as has already been noted).

Acoustic guitar brings sweet, sweet melody with the flight of the ravens into "Raven Land". The vocals are rich, haunting, slightly sinister. The overdubbing is used to splendid effect and the music creates stirrings of great monolithic rocks, abandoned towers and black birds, fluttering hither and tither, quarreling or
"... bringing tales of the dead, dead in times before..."
"Dreamdemons" starts with a roar. Heavy chords, whispy keyboards adding an atmosphere of phantasmic mist, twining between the rifts. As usual, Brennare's voice is wonderful.

Slow and deep, "Sweetwater" flows, the liquid vocals gliding between the delicate guitar and in line with the thrumming bass.

The mysterious "Life's but a Dream" is quite probably backmasking. (it is - and here it is). Hrm, looks like there was some truth in the claims of satanic hidden messages.

The tolling of bells and gentle acoustic guitar brings a sense of mourning to "Headstones". What a magnificant, beautiful song. The guitar, Brennare's lovely voice... so gothic and so wonderful. Makes you think of a lonely hill, clad in low trees, a path weaving through them. Birds in the trees (a few ravens, perhaps?). Ah....*

"Twilight" is another moody, atmospheric piece.The keyborad solo is a nice touch.

The fury of "Burn Fire Burn" erupts with power. It is one of my least favourite pieces from this album.

Oh, but the glory that is "The Path of the Gods (Upon the Highest Mountain, part 2)"! It begins with flute, and Brennare speaking in his oh-so-wonderful Swedish accent. After this introduction, it slides into the heavy bass that characterises this album. I've never heard part 1, which I assume is on "Greater Art". I also really, really love the line:
"Seek the openings in sanguine painted clouds..."
"Sanguine" is such a wonderful world - and one of my favourite colours too. No, not blood! In colouring pencils, you sicko-phant! Evocative language, the shadowing of female vocals, the chug-chug-chug of the bass... It all combines for a wonderful aural experience. The keyboards accentuate it. I love the "stars" bit. I can almost imagine Brennare snatching them from the sky, and handing them to me, having them flicker away like tiny fireflies or luminscent hummingbirds.

A magnificant album - one of the finest and most evocative and emotional Gothic Doom albums I have ever been privileged to hear and own. It is masterfully crafted and truly touches my spirit. I have to say, whilst their later albums have lost a little of the charm - the first four LoT albums are amongst the finest in my collection.

My rating = 8/10 (and that's only because some of the others are EVEN BETTER, believe it or not).

I urge you, if you haven't heard Lake of Tears and you love atmospheric metal with sexy, baritone vocals you should buy these two albums NOW:

Greatest Tears vol I: This one seems to contain the heavier, more doomy songs
Greatest Tears vol II: This one has more of the psychadelic, progressive stuff

Or, just do what I did and BUY THEM ALL! (well, except the first and the last).

I am going to focus on Black Mark and, whilst still staying with the alphabet, give their CDs priority, where I own them.

* If you think this music is evocative, you should try "Forever Autumn" which is superlative - but I'm going to listen to my LoT CDs in chronological order, I'm afraid - not that you need worry, because they're all brilliant.

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