Released: 2006, Peaceville Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Combining the more experimental elements and melodies of The Gathering with the metallic heft of Madder Mortem, RED FLAGS sees Swedish goth-metallers The Provenance further explore the same avenue begun with last year’s HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE SPAT AT? Lush melodies are interwoven with male and female vocals—not exactly original, I know, but The Provenance has something that sets them apart from the rest: a seeming lack of an agenda for commercial success, perhaps? The Provenance is quite content flying under the radar and releasing quality music, plain and simple, rather than appealing to the latest trend and appearing on umpteen magazine covers (*cough Lacuna Coil cough*).
Emma Hellström (AKA Vampirella in Snowy Shaw’s horror/Goth band, Notre Dame) possesses a powerful mid-range voice that is both warm and inviting. Paired with Tobias Martinsson’s equally strong vocals, the two singers complement each other well without one drowning out the other like in the case of Lullacry, Theatre of Tragedy and Lacuna Coil. Musically, RED FLAGS contains all the melodies of a stripped-down pop album without the sugar-coated, over-produced pap that sunk Lullacry’s VOL. 4 last year.
“At The Barricades” has plenty of guitar crunch during the choruses and Hellström is as convincing as a tough grrrl here (“Wish you were dead and no one cared”) as she is on the darkly melodic “Second and Last But Not Always.” The male-female vocal dynamic is best expressed on “Thanks To You” and the heavy Goth leanings of the Theatre of Tragedy-like “Leave-Takings.” Martinsson and Hellström work a rich chorus and a haunting refrain on the latter into a track of majestic opulence. Taking cues from The Gathering and even Portishead, the opening throb of “Deadened” parlays itself into a murky, dark and hypnotic semi-ballad. “One Warning” and The rolling drums of Joel Lindell on “One Warning” and ballistic guitars of Joakim Rosen and Martinsson on “Settle Soon” give a metallic whomp to end the album as Hellström’s amazing vocals loom over everything.
RED FLAGS is one of those unassuming releases that will make a lot of people take notice. It may be a “safe” knock-off of MANDYLION-era The Gathering but never veers towards the cheesy Goth clichés of bands like Within Temptation or the MTV posturing of Lacuna Coil. The Provenance has morphed from a doom-y death metal act to a thoroughly modern, barely metal, female-fronted band, which are three strikes against them for many readers of this site, but for those with an open mind, RED FLAGS has a tremendous amount to offer.
KILLER KUTS: “At The Barricades,” “Thanks To You,” “Second and Last But Not Always,” “Leave-Takings,” “One Warning,” “Settle Soon”