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Liva > Requiem > Reviews
Liva - Requiem

When One Woman Ruled The Earth: Catherine’s Story. - 70%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 16th, 2009

Female fronted metal is a hot topic for fans. The majority seems to sway towards the belief that, although there are a few worthwhile pursuits, the standards are far lower than that of male fronted bands, which dominate the metal genre. I don’t think its sexist to believe that female fronted metal isn’t up to the standards set by their male counterparts. I suppose, in some ways, the bar has been raised by the few female fronted bands that have actually managed to forge some sort of success, despite the lack of talent circulating the metal scene in terms of female vocalists. I, personally, know of a few female fronted bands that are the exception to the rule, such as The Gathering. I do believe there is some prejudice, there has to be. The bar was raised not only because of these few talented women in metal, but because that’s the way it always is in society - women generally need to work harder in order to gain success in male dominated jobs.

Being a metal vocalist is definitely male dominated and, although there is an abundance of talented female vocalists around, the trouble doesn’t begin with finding the talent, is finding out where to place the talent within metal soundscapes because the majority of women don’t seem to fit nicely into the generally aggressive textures of metal. That’s probably why we tend to find most women in metal lean towards “softer” genres, like the gothic genre, due to the fact that it is easier for their softer voices to find a place to call home within the multi-dimensional soundscapes that are usually driven by harsh instrumental patterns, which includes heavy distortion on guitars. There are a few women who find it easy to work within harsher genres, but the majority have set up shop in the less aggressive fields. Although this may be the case, women have shifted into this position seemingly through their own actions. Men have not driven them to this particular road in life because, it is fair to say, women tend to enjoy the more upbeat and mild mannered genres like melodic sub-genres, or gothic music. I’m not naïve enough to believe this is always the case.

A lot of women operate in hard hitting bands and a lot of female fans of metal like black, death or even doom metal, but the majority seem to stick to the more flexible ways of genres like the aforementioned one’s, which are undeniably more accessible to the female psyche. I tend to find a lot of female vocalists within metal are operatically inspired, often soprano vocalists, a genre generally exclusive to women. In these hybrid bands, I tend to notice that the female vocalists outperform the male vocalists. Their talents are displayed more fittingly against the music and this is, once again, the case in terms of Canada’s Liva, who somewhat remind me of their fellow Canadian band Brave (although their female vocalist isn’t a soprano vocalist). Catherine is definitely the better of the two vocalists on offer here and, thankfully, Liva have recognised the clash that male and female vocalists often have within bands like this. The male vocalist tends to provide the harsher textures, with growled vocals taken straight from the death, or doom genre. This does occur here, but the vocals are sparsely used.

If these growled vocals were more frequent, it would have affected the soundscapes, which are typically light, negatively. Catherine’s vocals are light, airy and well supported by the clean male vocals. However, the harsh growls don’t reflect well against her soprano style and, therefore, a lot of balance is compromised in order to make the band sound more metal than they probably are. They’re registered as classical and operatic metal, two genres I have little experience with, but the metal influences aren’t felt in full until the instrumentation takes a hefty turn towards growled vocals, distorted guitars and more productive cymbals. The percussion isn’t exactly heavy, but it does compliment these other two sections well whenever Liva express a more concerned tone. According to the lyrical themes, the band are Christians, which may be off putting to some.

Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of religious lyrics as religion doesn’t play a major role in my personal life, so I tend to avoid them unless I can relate to them in some way, shape, or form. To me, Christian based metal should probably be kept light, like much of the music is here because it works well with the image of Christianity and having a forgiving atmosphere supports the ideals of the religion. Genres like “white metal” (or Christian black metal) doesn’t balance out well at all, thus the reason it isn’t very well supported. Gothic based music seems rather apt for a Christian band and as I can hear some gothic influences in the darker atmospherics, the style is suited to the Christian themes without being overbearingly religious, or stereotypically preachy. As I said earlier, parts of this band reminds me of Brave, a gothic band who’s material relies almost entirely on a combination of emotive clean female vocals and a awe inspiring violin set - much the same as Liva.

The vocals, and violin, are pivotal to the success of this band and whilst the production somewhat limit’s the appeal of the instrumentation given its unfulfilling representation of the material, the band still manages to create some really superb moments through solid song writing. ‘Confutatis’, in particular, is immense. I love the rolling double bass, the bass led introduction, the sombre violin sections and even the male vocals work well against the pressing female vocals which hits all the notes perfectly. Catherine, who also plays the violin for the band, is the central figure, indicating that women do have a place within the metal scene with performances such as this. Without her, this band would be contrived, generic and probably worth avoiding, but given her operatic range - which is a style that isn’t normally to my liking - and wonderful presence on violin, this record is worth hearing.