Released: 2014, Napalm Records
Liv Kristine obviously is one of the most recognizable and enduring artists in symphonic female-fronted metal. VERVAIN is her fifth solo album, the prolific soprano continuing to make inspiring music now 11 years after her pioneering work in Theatre of Tragedy ended. Kristine has wisely avoided the direction that Lacuna Coil took on KARMACODE, which was oversaturated with down-tuned guitars and Nu-Metal tendencies. Even Delain and Within Temptation decided to go trendy on their most recent albums, so VERVAIN is a refreshing and firmly committed album to the more traditional elements of Gothic female-fronted metal.
Kristine continues to prove that her solo work does not need the “beauty and beast” vocal patterns she helped start with Theatre of Tragedy, her powerful and enticing vocals being all the sustenance needed without the tainted and now clichéd death metal male vocals for contrast. I personally never cared for that; if I want to hear death metal vocals, I will listen to death metal. I listen to female-fronted metal when I want to hear, surprise, females sing! Thus, songs like the opening “My Wilderness”, “Creeper”, and “Oblivion” are glorious songs featuring Kristine’s angelic vocals, but also elements of Doom, Gothic Metal, and even hints at dark pop. Greatly aiding the impact of the album overall are the compact and resonating songs, with half of the songs being under four minutes long, and only two that barely eclipse the five minute mark.
There are two worthy guest vocal tracks, with Michelle Darkness of End Of Green partnering with Kristine on “Love Decay”, a memorable song that carefully matches both vocalists styles with complimentary backing music. “Stronghold Of Angels” features the indomitable Doro Pesch, a woman that embodies the very essence of all that is right with metal music. Doro’s parts are unmistakably Doro, but work well within the overall concept of the song.
Ultimately, VERVAIN is centered upon the mesmerizing vocals of Kristine. The music is certainly adequate, appropriately setting the mood and framework for Kristine to work her magic, but mostly staying out of her way. The mood is dark through its entirety and thankfully leans almost exclusively towards traditional female-fronted Goth metal. It would be no exaggeration to call the album a full-on return to Kristine’s roots. Perhaps VERVAIN’s greatest strength is that in a subgenre that is beyond the point of saturation, the album manages to stand out and make an impression, which is no easy task. Fans of Beseech, Leave’s Eyes, Theatre of Tragedy and Flowing Tears will definitely want to make time for listening to VERVAIN.