Released: 2014, AFM Records
Formed way back in 1992, Sweden’s Lake Of Tear’s has finally released their first official live album. Consider for a moment, fans of the band, what a triumph this actually is. The band nearly imploded during their prime, breaking-up then reforming, battling the Black Mark record label, bitterly repenting signing with that label and releasing sub-par and uninspired albums during a time that they should have been world beaters. Imagine how the career arc of the band might have been altered had they actually been able to tour for A CRIMSON COSMOS, the second of a brilliant triple header of albums, preceded by HEADSTONES and succeeded by FOREVER AUTUMN. ILLWILL was a triumphant return in 2011 and for the first time in the band’s long career, they have been able to capitalize on momentum and ride it to the new album BY THE BLACK SEA.
BY THE BLACK SEA is a crucial piece of the band’s long journey, a highly anticipated live album. The live album also comes with a DVD, which the label did not send, so the album is what I will be reviewing. BY THE BLACK SEA is comprised of sixteen tracks covering an 8 album career. That leaves over seventy songs for the band to choose to include, admittedly no easy task. Still, having 25% of the songs come from ILLWILL, a decent album, is baffling. So yeah, the song selection is definitely reproachable. That my friends, is the only complaint I will level at what is otherwise a triumphant release. The album opens with the instrumental “To Die Is To Wake” from A CRIMSON COSMOS. Despite my exasperation about the emphasis on ILLWILL tracks, there is no denying that “Taste of Hell” as track two works well, an excellent mover to get the show going
Suffice it to say the sequencing of the tunes keeps the bands more mellow tunes appropriately balanced amongst the faster songs. The highlights are many, particularly the gothic “So Fell Autumn Rain” the often overlooked pummeling of early classic “As Daylight Yields” and the atmospheric “Demon You/Lily Anne.” The album closes with the dirge-like beauty of “Forever Autumn”, the bands slowest ballad and wisely left for the end of the show. First thing you might notice is the stunning clarity of the recording, perhaps a result of some studio tinkering but doubtful, Lake of Tears never being known as a band that obsesses over details. Daniel Brennare sounds pretty good, struggling slightly with the slower songs like “Sweetwater” and “Ravenland” but not enough to detract from the overall vibe.
BY THE BLACK SEA finally delivers the live album that some fans have waited for 20+ years to arrive. It probably deserved to be a double album, which would likely have ended any quibbles about the track selection. Still, considering there was reason to believe fans would have never gotten a live album it is a damn fine start. With AFM backing the band, the future looks bright for this long suffering band that truly deserves more recognition. A must purchase for all true fans of the band. Curious listeners should explore the studio albums first, as so many outstanding songs are not included on BY THE BLACK SEA.