Searching in Vain
Heavy metal frontwomen tend to fall into one of two categories: the scratchy, tough Joan Jett-esque rock stars, and the operatic “what’s she doing singing metal?” types. Norwegian vixen Liv Kristine falls into the latter group. In most cases, this over-singing is more effective when it is used sparingly, perhaps as backing vocals. On her fifth album, Vervain, Kristine displays talent and control as a singer as well as an instinct for lush and large melodies as a songwriter, but the album as a whole comes across as too serious and too big for its own good.
A dueling guitar riff opens Vervain, with “My Wilderness.” The song rocks for sure, and the mix of synthesizers is welcome, but one wonders if the song could have been more successful if the electronic element was taken to the next level — some drum sampling would have pushed it over the edge. That’s a flame-worthy suggestion in the world of metal, but it’s this lack of something that plagues most of the album. End of Green’s Michelle Darkness takes the lead vocals on “Love Decay,” with Kristine sharing the stage, and this song shows that is a better use of her presence.
Warlock’s Doro Pesche shows Kristine how it’s done on “Stronghold of Angels,” waxing ope-rock with the best of them, relegating Kristine to the rear of the stage to take notes. On “Hunters,” the electronic tip comes forth, but at this point it appears disjointed, and the soprano doesn’t quite fit. One song where the mix of sampling and traditional instruments works well is “Elucidation.” The dual drum tracks support one another and elevate the tune. If Kristine is looking for where her music career should go in the future, this is the direction that works for her style.
While there is much to enjoy on Vervain, from the tight performances to the tunefulness, there is little that you are likely to remember and therefore little reason to return for repeat listens. If Liv Kristine can locate and master the right sound to go with her voice, her next album could be a breakthrough.