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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.