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With a band name that reminds me of soft porn titles starring Shannon Tweed and an enigmatic cover that's nevertheless rife with goth cliches, I put this on expecting a club-friendly goth album with some heavy guitars spliced in. Surprisingly, but not regrettably, that didn't turn out to be the case. Opening with what sounds like Barney Gumble belching in slow motion, Lake of Sorrow immediately emphasizes that this release doesn't exactly coddle those whose taste for gothic metal leans towards the commercially viable end of the spectrum. The music soon meanders in and shambles forward with plodding doom riffs and a sluggish tempo draped with miasmic keyboards and melancholy violin melodies. Unless you're a brain eating zombie, you are not going to feel the need to boogie to this.
An unabashed "Beauty and the Beast" effort, the vocals favor the gruff, guttural male growling nearly as much as the wispy angelic female counterpart, smartly not trading off lines too often, although on a few occasions it does sound a bit like some Off-Broadway rock opera about a hopeless relationship between a C.H.U.D and Tinker Bell. Vocally it's unique in that the female vocals are drenched with enough reverb to be deemed less decipherable than the "Beast". Not a common trait for this particular subgenre. Lyrically the themes revolve around being miserable in love and desires from beyond the grave, fitting with the lustrous morass of the music, but not exactly with prose worth reciting at a poetry reading without having to dodge hurled espresso cups.
As "My Love" sets the tone for the entire album, these tunes are long, drawn out, and recycle the admittedly cool ideas over and over to the point of mild annoyance and droopy eyelids. The first few cuts share the same lumbering rhythm to such a degree that the same drum tracks could be used for all three of them. When the fourth number kicks in with a different time signature, it's such a breath of fresh air that I almost feel the urge to celebrate and high-five strangers. Granted, it still drags at a drunk mule's gait, but the 6/8 beat at least conjures up an impression of a sea shanty on a ghost ship. It also briefly flirts with a high speed tempo, yet the murky production and layers of keyboards successfully obscure the burst of aggression.
That's the overlying them to Lake Of Sorrow musically. Boasting eight performers, there's a density to this effort that drowns any sharpness to the instrumentation into a quicksand of gothic sludge, with only one member able to keep his head afloat, that being violinist Pete Johansen. Languishing in the spot normally reserved for guitar soloists, this guy wails away at his instrument with hair whipping glee at any given opportunity, forcing both guitarists into a strictly rhythm mode, in which they have to contend with not one, but two keyboardists for a sense of relevance. Only during "All Alone" do the guitarists stand out with some fetching melodic interplay that actually warrants the need for dual guitarwork. Other than that, one guitarist and/or keyboardist could easily take a break from performing a gig for whatever reason without the songs being compromised whatsoever on stage.
The other noteworthy characteristics I can distinguish concerning variance between songs consist of "Until the Dark" being that one track devoid of growling, which showcases the technically accomplished yet one dimensional 'light as a feather' delivery of Anita, and the final offering boosts the speed up to a mid tempo. Of course, listening to the album throughout its duration, by the time I arrive at that point I'm feeling too damn mopey to acknowledge the marginally increased pace; any attempt to headbang would result with my head remaining down after one rep.
Lake Of Sorrow nestles comfortably within the gothic doom realm, highlighted by numerous violin solos and a stubborn yet noble refusal to throw a bone to those looking for any semblance of commercial appeal. These songs individually work quite well in establishing a haunting and dreary atmosphere, and I can enjoy the sort of experience they bring on a one track basis, but as an entire collection, the sheer nature of this album eventually wears me down with its ideas being persistently revisited for each subsequent tune. It can be an almost crushing experience, but I can appreciate the willfulness to keep things creepy and at a creeping pace.