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To be fair, this has been the first I have heard of the Swedish gothic metal band Lake of Tears, and as a result, I have not heard the best that they have to offer. By all accounts I have heard, they have done some great work with the album 'Forever Autumn', and some of their other earlier work is quite good. Unfortunately, I have had no such experience with Lake Of Tears' latest effort, entitled 'Illwill'. Here, the band falls into a sorry category of artists who sport excellent production values and pretty of polish with what they do, but at the sacrifice of inspired songwriting and performance. Perhaps it was different for Lake Of Tears at some point, but here, the impression I am getting is one of rhinestones painted gold; a fairly mediocre hard rock album that the studio engineers have done everything to save.
Although going for a more accessible and melodic take on metal is not necessarily a bad thing at all, there is a point where things get so streamlined that it almost feels like an insult to the listener; as if they cannot handle much more than one or two half-baked musical ideas coming at them at once. The first four tracks of 'Illwill' help best to illustrate this; each being driven by conventional song structures, James Hetfield-wannabe vocal delivery, and guitar riffs that would border on drone music if they were made any more simple. With the apparent intention of sounding edgy, Lake Of Tears dishes out the distortion with each riff, but it never changes the fact that at their core, these ideas are incredibly tired even from the first spin of the album. With the exception of a few guitar solos here and there (that are admittedly quite tastefully done), it does not feel like the musicianship invests any soul into playing; even the drums seem there only to keep a sense of rhythm to the tracks, and nothing more.
Of course, 'Illwill' is not without its greater moments, and these almost always come in the form of the more mellow moments, where it ironically feels like Lake Of Tears has put most of their efforts into arranging and developing into something nice. After four pianfully mediocre tracs to kick off the record, 'Illwill' presents its fifth track, 'House Of The Setting Sun'; a doomy ballad of sorts which even for its plodding tempo and very mellow approach, is the most musically interesting track on the album. Besides that, Lake Of Tears unfortunately reverts to their cheesy gothic hard rock, which- to their credit- does get progressively heavier and more intense as the album goes on, but never manages to hold my interest even by the last track.
Despite one pretty good song and some solid production courtesy of whoever recorded this album, Lake Of Tears has come up short with 'Illwill' in most respects. Expect mediocre songwriting, uneventful execution, and a couple of interesting ideas along the way, and you may not be disappointed.
It’s 2011 and guess who just threw a new album out into the cosmic soup of minstrels, but none other than Lake of Tears. That’s right, those psychedelic/doom/goth metal maestros from Sweden are back nearly 20 years after their inception as a death metal act. It’s been 4 years since their last release “Moons and Mushrooms”, which was a spectacular if not unexpected offering; so, let’s see what type of madness dwells on “Illwill”.
For the uninitiated, Lake of Tears are a band that have dipped their pen into almost every creative inkwell they could locate and expand upon their metal hybrid concept. From their beginnings as a death/doom metal outfit with “Greater Art”, to the psychedelic leanings of “Crimson Cosmos”, the gothic tinged madness of “Forever Autumn” and the techno laced stylings of “The Neonai” to name a few. The question you may now ask, is this album worth my time? I would respond with, yes.
Musically, “Illwill” is comprised of the typical elements found throughout the Lake of Tears back catalog; however I was surprised to find some material that seemed to be out of place. The album starts off kind of weak as the first 3 tracks are rather generic and repetitive; I was hard pressed to find a hook. As we move forward with tracks like “U.N.S.A.N.E.” and “House of the Setting Sun” we see the band returning to their melodic, progressive style with their hypnotic loops and haunting instrumental passages. This is particularly evident on “House of the Setting Sun” which is definitely the high point of the album and a great representation of what the band is trying to convey as a whole. Tracks like “Out of Control” and “Taste of Hell” show the band wandering into a heavier, more aggressive Sabbath-like approach to this musical journey. The album closer, “Midnight Madness” has a riffing style that could be likened to Immortal and completes the album in a grand, heavy hitting way.
If you are new to the band I would recommend starting with “Crimson Cosmos” or “Headstones”, but the seasoned Lake of Tears fan will feel right at home with “Illwill”. This album may not garner Lake of Tears any new fans or accolades for that matter, but I think in all honesty this is a band that has been operating beyond that mentality for a long time, playing simply for the shear thrill of creating something and watching it grow into something great. I was hooked when I first heard “Crimson Cosmos” about 10 years ago and they still never fail to disappoint.
Originally Written for Adequacy.net:
I've been a big fan of Swedish gothic metallers Lake of Tears for some time, having all their albums save one. Their 8th full-length saw digital release last week.
If you're not familiar with the band, they have an unusual take on the ill-defined gothic metal subgenre. This is as far as it gets from your pretty, symphonic Nightwish and their clones. It's progressive and psychedelic, both of which set them apart from peers like Moonspell, but it's also surprisingly upbeat (especially given their name). Clean production lets you hear all the instruments well, but doesn't sound sterile. And those vocals. Plus, the songs are catchy as the plague.
If you are familiar with the band, "Behind the Green Door" and "Out of Control" are going to be perfectly in line with expectations, and the title track (with its sing-along bridge) won't disappoint either. They also branch out in several directions. "House of the Setting Sun" is more typical gothic fare, but "Parasites" is Motörhead-esque in its punk simplicity. "The Hating" could be a bid at capturing the groove metal demographic. But the real treats are saved for the end, where the band channels Immortal in adding some serious black metal influence to the last two tracks, without sacrificing heaviness.
My only complaint, then, is the track order. The three best tracks are the three last tracks, while the title track is really the only standout of the first seven. It could lose your interest somewhere around track 4, "U.N.S.A.N.E.", which is honestly a very weak offering.
The Verdict: Lake of Tears won't disappoint fans with this one, but those who aren't already sold on their approach might find it hard to wade through until the end of this. A better starting place would be The Neonai, Black Brick Road, or A Crimson Cosmos.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
The career of Sweden's preeminent psychedelic Goth doom mobsters Lake of Tears has long been one of climaxes and fallouts, perhaps phased to the cycles of the moon, perhaps dependent on how drunk the members are during their songwriting process. Having seen the cover art for Illwill, their eighth full-length album, I was not holding out much hope for the quality of its contents. Sure, they've had some stinker imagery before, like the lazy cover to Black Brick Road or the incredibly boring photograph gracing Forever Autumn, but this looks more like a new album from the Swedish supergroup Illwill than anything else, a fat cheesy logo interspersed with the limbs of some suicide tree...how do you go from beautiful hippie distractions like A Crimson Cosmos and The Neonai, or the cosmic ball tripping of Moon and Mushrooms to something so drab?
Speaking of that last album, it was phenomenal, and the emotional resonance of tracks like "Children of the Grey" and "You Better Breathe While There's Still Time" had me chomping at the bit for more. Finally, the band had closed the gap towards the authentic power they wielded through their earlier output. Illwill was one of my most anticipated albums this year, but I'm sad to say that it's a letdown. Perhaps not so much of a disappointment as Forever Autumn had been after the brilliance of A Crimson Cosmos, but an eyebrow raiser nonetheless. To be fair, there are a few solid tracks that deliver the mood rock we expect, and the general tone of the album is redolent of Moons and Mushrooms, but a lot of the life leeching here comes in the form of its experiments. Lake of Tears have decided to strike up the tempo and explore some terrains alien to their backlog, so we end up with the speed metal (honest to Gods) of "The Hating", or the meta-black metal thunder of "Midnight Madness", which reminded me of the Wolfheart era of Moonspell, sans the goofier gothic vocals, and in which Brennare borders on sheer rasping.
Now don't get me wrong: if these Swedes wanna fuck around with pacing and attempt to crack a few new nuts, nothing should stop them. The issue is that these songs are simply not very good. The guitar tone and velocity of "The Hating" seem initially exciting, but they don't pan out over the course of the track. Likewise for the uplifting punk fuel of "Parasites", or the driving rock of "Floating in Darkness". All are rich sounding due to the mix, and possess subtleties similar to the huge rock of Moon and Mushrooms, but the vocal lines and riff patterns seem to drag. Luckily, the band has not plummeted entirely off the deep end. There are some sultry rockers like the Pink Floyd influenced "House of the Setting Sun" or the accessible Gothic sway of "Behind the Green Door", with fun but cheesy lyrics that seem to center on the finer sex (or possibly the Marilyn Chambers flick). Then you've got some borderline fare, like "Taste of Hell" which mirrors the mighty "Children of the Grey" with a few rasps, but far less memorable structure; or "Illwill" itself, with a steady driving melodic wall of force that has much precedent throughout their discography.
It always pains me to be underwhelmed by a Lake of Tears record, because when this band is 'on', they are one of the best in the world at delivering deviously simplistic Gothic doom rock. I know that when the watch-fires of inspiration are lit, they are fully capable of kicking my ass and having me sing along for the next decade or more. To be fair, this is not so vapid an album as the navel gazing Forever Autumn. There are a couple moments where I was bobbing my head along, absorbed in the weight of the chords and lyrics. But it's no more than 'okay', equivocal to their 2004 effort Black Brick Road in impact. No "Sweet Water", no "Cosmic Weed", no "Devil's Diner", no "Head One Phantom"; nothing to keep the attention engaged until the band's next creative outlet. The blame can't be wholly placed upon the shoulders of their experiments in acceleration, the broaching of other genres, but neither does that benefit the content.