Since appearing on the metal scene in 1995 with Theatre of Tragedy, Liv Kristine has been one of the most popular front-women to grace the genre, with her instantly recognisable dreamy high pitched voice. Between singing with her old group, the aforementioned Theatre of Tragedy, her current band Leaves’ Eyes and her solo career she’s covered diverse styles from gothic doom metal to pop music, and she’s also been hard at work – new solo album Vervain being the fifteenth full length album to date. It’s fitting then that in the twentieth year of her career she’s dropped the bland saccharine pop sound of her last effort, 2012’s Libertine and instead pulls together all the different music styles she’s performed to date into one album. It’s not just a great fusion of all the elements of her music throughout the years together in one release – its also her best solo album to date.
Anyone familar with Liv’s voice knows what to expect – her dreamy high pitched vocals have been her trademark throughout her career. My Wilderness starts the album with a heavy epic sounding song which brilliantly combines the symphonic metal of Leaves’s Eyes with the melodic flourishes that embody all her solo works. Love Decay has that gothic electronic sound of her first solo effort Deus Ex Machina, combinied delightfully with the melancholic guitar crunch of early Theatre of Tragedy, with guest vocals from Michelle Huber fitting the gothic atmosphere with that low dark tone to his voice. Title track Vervain retains the same guitar heavy approach, once again complete with the electronics, but in a catchier poppy manner, Liv cooing beautifully in the intro before singing more powerfully, her voice matching the great keyboard and guitar melodies.
The second duet of the album is with another metal legend Doro Pesch on Stronghold of Angels, echoing the first Theatre of Tragedy with those mournful doomy riffs and melancholic piano lines, the counterpoint of Doro’s gruff low sound and Liv’s velvety voice working great in a wonderfully gloomy song. The dark electronic rock of Hunters provides a background for Liv to give her best performance of the album, her powerful operatic style from Leaves’ Eyes showcased in style, while Elucidation is both immensely dark and catchy with a great chorus.
Lotus is one of the more poppy efforts we’re perhaps used to from a solo Liv album, stripped down with soft piano and synth-strings matching her voice beautifully, while Two and a Heart is another where the gloom and doom of Theatre of Tragedy collide with the electonica of Deus Ex Machina in the album’s catchiest track.
Overall it’s an album of varied tracks taking everything that’s good about Liv’s output to date and combining it in one album. Vervain combines the gloom of Theatre of Tragedy, the electronic elements of her early solo work and just a pinch of the symphony of Leave’s Eyes, with varied songs and the album getting it’s coherence from the constant of Liv’s great voice. It’s her best solo album to date, and should win back the section of her audience that may have been lost by the overly poppy Libertine – it’s dark, beautiful and should make you fall in love her music all over again.
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