Thursday 20 May 2021

Liv Kristine - Have Courage Dear Heart (2021)

Country: Norway
Style: Gothic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 7 May 2021
Sites: Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | Official Website | Twitter | Wikipedia | YouTube

This EP may not be what you expect from Liv Kristine, but it's good stuff and she's done enough over a quarter of a century to deserve not being pigeonholed. You might know her work from the pioneering gothic metal band Theatre of Tragedy, the symphonic metal band Leaves' Eyes or even her sister's folk metal band Midnattsol, which she joined as their second vocalist in 2017. This has elements from all of those genres but much of it not really a metal release at all.

There are five tracks on offer, running just over twenty minutes between them, and they're agreeably varied. Serenity starts things out in a gothic post-punk vein, reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees at their most interesting. The title track feels indie too, pairing a tremulous vocal with a vibrant drum sound and little touches of decoration here and there. Apparently it began as a mandolin piece but it grew into something that Liv has described as a sort of imaginary spaghetti western theme.

The closest this gets to the work she did for the bands listed above is the final minute of Gravity, but it has to be said that Skylight kind of qualifies too. It's not heavy enough to really be called metal, but it definitely has an upbeat nature and it builds nicely. This could easily have been as a gothic metal song but one shorn of its crunchy guitars and turned into simply a goth rock song. What's really interesting about it, though, is that she doesn't stop there.

The song that closes out the album is called Skylight Cathedral and we might expect it to be a reprise or a companion, but it's actually the same song, because "cathedral" in Liv Kristine's world means an acutely bare rendering of a song. It's like she wrote a metal song, then stripped it down to be a rock song, but wasn't done, so she stripped it down again to its essence, with nothing but voice and piano. It's delicate and it's touching and it's very personal, as if she's sitting on the edge of my desk singing to just me. As much as I love the heavy stuff, I think this is my favourite piece here.

That leaves Gravity, which sits between the two takes on Skylight and so is presumably a focal point. I would have to describe this one as synthpop, at least until it heavies up late on, though again there's a tinge of darkness from the outset and the gothic melancholy only grows. The final minute is as close as this gets to metal, though I'm guessing that the five live songs might go there. They were recorded in Nagold, Germany at her eighth annual special show and my copy doesn't have them, so I can't talk about them beyond mentioning that they ought to be there on your copy.

Even without them, I like this EP a lot. It might feel consistent, but Liv Kristine actually does rather a lot with her voice here. It's an immersive twenty minutes.

No comments:

Post a Comment