Released: 2005, Napalm Records
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman
Carmen Elise Espanaes is Liv Kristine’s younger sister. Yes, she is absolutely adorable. There; I said it. Now that we have this out of the way, on with the review. I care not to mention this ever again. It needn’t have been mentioned to begin.
This album, and this band, have no other connection to anything you will read about in the promo brochures or magazine ads. This is elegant, original, powerful music that stands on its own, and sounds like no one. Carmen does not sound like her sister. If a comparison must be made, I would compare her with Enya to infidels, or Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) to the adept.
A song like “Tarefall” could have easily come from Clannad in the 80’s, whereas a track like “Lament” thrashes along like any other Euro Metal band might opt to; but the gorgeous, intricately-woven harmonies manage to veer this back into semi-gothic territory more often than not.
Now despite the 80’s references and folk intrusions (“Desolation”), something must be emphasized: This is Heavy Metal—don’t mistake it. Songs like “Haunted” and “Dancing With The Midnight Sun” won’t let you forget it. In fact, “Haunted,” in particular, is easily as heavy as anything Cradle Of Filth might have pulled out of their mall-goth lunch box; but it sounds just so much more genuine and inspired without the sub-demonic howls and shrieks that Cradle would have weighted the composition down with. There are no growls, shrieks, or quacking noises here. There is no “beauty and the beast” effect.
This album is, admittedly, uneven at times—there is a struggle going on. The folk and metal influences do not always sit well beside one another; tracks like “Unpayable Silence” and “Tarefall” (which breaks out a friggin’ didgeridoo, for Chrissakes) sound great alone, but nestled next to heavier fare like “Lament” and “Another Return,” they sound positively out of place. Unless the poor girl is singing topless, few diehard headbangers are going to sit still for all of this. The band—and the music itself, really—is at its best when blended within a single composition (the breakdowns in “Haunted” and “Pa Leting,” for instance, or tracks such as “Enlightenment” and “Infinite Fairytale”). The band is perfectly coherent; but they need to be cohesive.
Every other reviewer is going to give this the highest praise. I feel compelled to be more conservative about this…but really, there’s little to be “conservative” about: the music is well played, and well-written; the album itself is well-produced. The whole thing stands well on its own merit, and very much goes for its own approach—there is little to truly kvetch about, if it weren’t for the hurdles inherent in that very approach. This band is off to a fantastic start, and will likely only improve with time. It is, in a sense, a standard release for the Napalm label—fans of Sirenia and so forth will find something to like here, even if it’s not quite what they might expect.
For fans of NIGHTTIME BIRDS-era The Gathering, or a kinder, gentler Finntroll will eat this up; fans of female-fronted waif-tastic Goth-Folk will probably simply masturbate on the cover.