Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Baby's First Breakup - 83%

FOrbIDen, January 11th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2002, CD, Massacre Records

"Love metal" was a term coined by Finnish band HIM when it was used as the title for their fourth studio release in 2003, it was used primarily to classify their music that wasn't too confined by a singular genre. Regardless of how the term "love metal" makes you feel, for better or for worse it has stuck as a music descriptor in some corners of music internet. Among bands like To/Die/For, Entwine, For My Pain, and The 69 Eyes, Norway's Mortal Love is one of the many gothic metal and rock bands that at one point or another in their career have been classified under the love metal label. Now when HIM used it, it was used to describe a sound that contained the dark atmosphere and romanticism of nineties gothic metal crossed with modern alternative rock, all delivered with a sheen of glam flamboyance. Though this typically does hold some modicum of truth in most of the aforementioned bands, I would argue that Mortal Love is a very different animal all together. Granted, the band did debut the year before the (effectively fictitious) genre's namesake, but it is worthy to note that Mortal Love took a very different approach to their sound than the crunchy hard rock riffing and crooning of Ville Valo and his ilk.

2002's All the Beauty... is a record that crosses gothic sentimentality with the cold sterility of mid-nineties doom metal in a way that is absolutely hypnotic. With the average song being about six-minutes long, the music is more or less as you'd expect: it's mid-paced and typically varies between sparse emotive strumming, steady melancholic marches, and weighty gallops that carry enough edge and melody to render the music absolutely headbang-able, but when the band really turns it on (so to speak), the music can be absolutely crushing. Now I'm not saying Mortal Love goes into death metal levels of brutality or anything, but when the drums start blasting away and the guitars cut into unrelenting staccato notes in what feels like cut time, you feel it. The bass work is pretty lackluster -- it usually stays in tandem with the guitar parts, albeit a bit more legato -- but in those moments the bass carries so much power that it makes the music feel bigger and much more intense. It's not anything overly extreme or technical, if I had to draw a comparison to anything it would be Nighttime Birds-era The Gathering played with a bit more precision and authority.

Integral to the soundscapes on All the Beauty... but not as noteworthy are the keyboards and programming used on the album. Provided by Zet of Ram-Zet fame, the keyboards come in three distinct flavors. Most of the time they take the form of a shapeless imitation of strings that hum and drone along behind the rest of the band, only occasionally adding swells for emphasis or to add some dynamic changes. Sprinkled throughout the album, in almost every song, are some more electronic effects. Sharp, metallic sounding beeps and chirps that are used as intros or outros of songs or used in the background of heavier sections just to add texture, and this is my least favorite of the ambient keyboard noises. They kind of clash with the rest of the music, shifting the tone from melancholy or angst to generally unsettling or... wrong. Personally, my favorite "flavor" of keyboard is also the one that is the least utilized in this album, and that is the addition of a simple piano. A dull, synthetic, fake-sounding piano, sure, but ultimately the effect is the same. Used most notably in the verses of "Falling for You" or the chorus of "Hate to Feel", the playing here adds movement and complexity to the sound, and just makes the music sound more mature -- which is something this album might be in need of.

Now you might be asking yourself: "what part of this highly rated, restrained gothic doom metal album is lacking in maturity?" To which I'd respond with: "I don't know, what makes people label this a 'love metal' band?" It comes down to the lyrical content and the delivery of said lyrics. It's all romance based, and not just normal love songs either; it's all tortured, earth shattering, brokenhearted, romantic tragedy melodrama. Which can work, but this record's fatal flaw is that it lacks subtlety and nuance. Vocalist Cat has a great, clear voice. Her timbre is kind of thin, somewhat cold, and somehow equally bright. She handles all vocal duties on All the Beauty... (save for a few whispered/spoken lines from bassist Lev), singing languid melodies that are equally catchy as they are subdued. Not to say that her voice can't soar, "Crave Your Love" and "Mortally Beloved" are testament to that, but what people can take issue with is what she's singing. For the most part I don't take that much issue with the lyrics, but there a few glaring examples of less than ideal lyricism. Like the chorus of "Mortally Beloved" (which I do argue is one of the stronger songs on the album), "what's the reason to live if I cannot love?"; this line from "In the Sun": "does it make you happy to see me sad?"; and the most obvious example being the twelve times she sings a variation of the line "I want to die" in the song of the same name, played straight and full of conviction. It's a bit on the nose for me, and definitely for others.

By the way, did you know that this is a concept album? Really, it's the start of the band's concept trilogy of albums. Much like the band's sophomore effort I Have Lost..., the concept manifests itself here in two ways. In that album, the title in itself was the concept; the idea being that the point of view character abandons all of their defining characteristics and emotions post-breakup and turns into a caustic black hole of a human being and intends to turn the new object of her desire into the same. "I Have Lost"... fill in the blank: senses, hope, adoration, everything. But what I didn't mention in my review in that album is the paragraphs of first-person narration in the liner notes, catching the listener up on what our down on their luck hero has been up to in the three years since the debut album. That is being pathetic, they are a pathetic excuse of a human being. This remains true in this record, but... more. As All the Beauty... is the beginning of the trilogy, it is also the one with the most exposition and set up. The story takes up half of the goddamned booklet! It goes on and on, detailing the entirety of the romantic leads' relationship: the happy beginning, the unhealthy dependency, the ultimate breakup, the subsequent downward spiral and yearning for death. Ultimately the point of view character walks away thankful for the time they spent together but an emotionally empty husk. The story itself, coupled with the not so great prose makes it come off as any coming of age romance, where the characters have never experienced love before and therefore believe that no one has experienced love before. There's no moderation of feelings, which means that when a stiff wind inevitably knocks over their relationship it brings a cold desolate ice age with it. I'm saying it comes off as the character's first heartbreak, and therefore skews the tone rather young; more like teen angst than a full-grown adult who had their "One" break up with them.

But this is all exterior stuff -- the concept doesn't have that much bearing on the music, except for when it does. Which brings me to the second way that the concept is integrated into the whole of the album. Much like After Forever's 2004 concept album Invisible Circles, the weakest aspect of this record are the spoken word and acted sections -- they're like those talk breaks in Boyz II Men songs, but goth. I could go on and on about the general badness of the over the top, minute and a half long monologue in "I Want to Die", or the awful mumbled talk down in "Mortally Beloved" that does that thing that pre-teen Evanescence fans do in YouTube comments, where they write cringey emotional paragraphs where they incorporate as many song titles as possible. But to me, the most offensive example is the main love interest's breakup speech in the middle of "In the Sun", which for the benefit of you -- the reader -- I have transcribed it in its entirety below:

    I have something to tell you
    I don't love you anymore
    I'm seeing someone else now
    I don't love you anymore
    I love someone else
    I hope you don't mind that we still can be friends
God, why? Cringe, cringe, cringe. This is punctuated with Cat crying out "no, my love" in the similar cadence of Padmé Amidala in the climax of Revenge of the Sith by the way -- it's just way too much. Besides the obvious fact that this is just a cruel thing to do to someone that you claim to have loved, it's also just laughably bad. It's too straight forward and mundane that it's just too unbelievable. Not to mention that friend-zoning the girl who is irrevocably obsessed with you just stamps a date on it and places the album in the context of modern times. It's too ridiculous, and it doesn't age well.

But in all fairness this is the worst of it, and the poorly incorporated talk downs only make up about three of the forty-eight-minute run time, but they do affect the listening experience of the album enough to take some points off the top. If it weren't for them this review score would definitely be closer to ninety because the music stands really well on its own. The doomy gothic stylings on All the Beauty... are absolutely hypnotic. The cross between the heaviness and sentimentality is well constructed, the melodies are enrapturing, and the atmosphere is sorrowful and sleepy without being boring. In general, this album is a bit too downtrodden to be the usual "love metal" fare; the most similar song "Crave Your Love" picks up the pace and is a little more poppy but is still too dense and heavy to pass for what most would compare to HIM and other bands. Sure, Mortal Love's sophomore effort is stronger, but there's still a place for a record like this. If you're a fan of this style of gothic doom metal in the same vein as early The Gathering or Lacuna Coil and can stomach the high drama and romantic tragedy of it all, give this album a spin. It's well written and moody, perfect for getting lost in during the foggy and rainy days of winter.