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49 minutes of doom metal/rock soundscapes - 95%

KronosMPH, April 15th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1998, CD, Seven Art Music

It's too bad this album is extremely hard to find nowadays. Flowing Tears & Withered Flowers went on to create four more albums on bigger labels under a truncated name, but their sophomore effort is right up there in terms of quality and is probably what got them noticed in the first place.

As pointed out by other reviewers, Flowing Tears' music is very different from what you may expect a gothic metal band to sound like, but the label still fits their distinct approach quite well. Their music has always had a stripped-back sound, with barely any keyboards or synths, and none of the orchestration or choirs or symphonic flairs used by many other bands in the genre. Instead Flowing Tears employs just guitars, bass, drums, a few keyboards (handled on Joy Parade by guitarist Benjamin Buss, better known as "Matthew Greywolf" of Powerwolf) and some occasional sound effects... and of course, Stefanie DuchĂȘne's unique vocals.

The "Flowing Tears & Withered Flowers" albums had longer track runtimes than their major-label successors. Joy Parade was dialed back a bit after the death/doom approach of Swansongs, and sort of hit a perfect balance between lush instrumentals and passages more driven by Stefanie's vocals. Her earnest alto stands out in a genre full of soft-voiced sopranos or classically inspired singers, and takes the music in a different direction which suits the rockish instrumentals.

Repeated riffs that immerse the listener are one of the album's strong suits, and as much as I enjoy Flowing Tears' more vocal-driven later works, I can definitely feel that it's missing from there. Rffs from songs like "Purple Red Soil" and the outros to "Spirals Meet the Sea" and "The Day You Took My Breath" stand out as they can keep the listener mesmerized for a while before moving on. Joy Parade also uses a few instrumental interludes to break things up, which were probably phased out later because they realized that even the different numbers like piano-driven "Bluefield" and "Sundrops" are more impactful when you have more of these hypnotic riffs as a contrast. As short as they may be, the shorter songs are vital to Joy Parade's structure.

If there's any track that doesn't quite hold up to the same standard, it's unfortunately the closer, "The Day You Took My Breath." I love the closing riff to pieces and I love what they were going for with the acoustic intro, but there are two things that drag it down a bit. While Flowing Tears implemented most of the spoken word on the album so that it tends to blend with the instrumentation and not stand out, guitarist Manfred Bersin (also lead vocals on their debut Swansongs) sounds quite like a sore thumb with the sort-of-duet he has going on with Stefanie here. There's also some weird industrial sound effects in the midsection which try to connect the acoustic part and the outro, but come off as very clunky and stand out. Not a very good transition, unfortunately, which can yank the listener right out of the music.

In spite of the shortcomings, overall this was a very strong early output from Flowing Tears, and it's a shame it didn't get more circulation. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys downtempo or atmospheric doom metal.