posted on 3/2011 By:
Sjukdom ("disease") is my first encounter with Sweden’s Lifelover, despite their four-album history, and a strange beast they are. While falling under the vast black metal umbrella, Lifelover is a more more eclectic and eccentric take on the genre that has a depressive, despondent backbone and a front man (or "men") who deliver some of the more unhinged, suicidal and creative vocals I’ve heard since Shining’s Niklas Kvarforth.
In fact, Shining might be a good (if lazy) reference for those needing an easy starting point for Lifelover’s sound. However, Lifelover offers up a little more variety, creativity and cleaner hues. (The programmed drums are partially responsible.) I’d also throw Bergraven and Germany’s Secrets of the Moon in there as reference points due to the more doomy and progressive but controlled gait of much of the music.
While the music may indeed be steady and controlled, with somber nods to some of the depressive Finnish bands and maybe Katatonia, including some well-placed piano/keyboards, the focal point of the album (the vocals) are not -- and that will be the sticking point for many listeners. Lead vocalist Kim Carlsson and the other members come together to bring an array of screams, wails, rasps, whispers and spoken words to the fray, and it laces the album with a rather unsettling if admittedly cathartic layer of psychosis and paranoia. For some, it may simply be too over-the-top, such as the brief “Homicidal Tendencies”, as it often comes across like the ramblings of an insane, straitjacket-clad asylum resident in his padded cell. In fact, the album often comes a across as the drugged-up, sedated musings of a paranoid schizophrenic. However, the music itself often provides a little more balance and beauty, bringing some restraint to the mix.
Perfect examples are the opener “Svart Galla”, “Resignation”, “Totus Anctus”, the vaguely poppy trio of “Horans Hora”, “Nedvaknande” and “Instrumental Asylum” (which all gave me a slight Amesouers vibe), and the menacing “Becksvart Frustration” where steady and surprisingly thrashy (if still somber) riffs and double-bass cantering backs the vocal rants and some piano tinkling. But a few far more expected, depressive tangents litter the album such as the sad trot of “Expandera”, “Doften Av Tomblet”, the spoken word interludes “Bitterljuv Kakofoni” and “Utdrag”, which to me are far more effective, evocative and memorable. Also, I would have like to have heard more of the aggressive delivery that starts closer “Karma”, as the sterner riffage along with the array of vocal insanity made for a pretty interesting and gritty collage of frayed sonic mayhem.
Still, while I enjoyed this release and rather liked the skitzoid vocals, I don’t think Sjukdom is the groundbreaking, classic effort that some have made it out to be, as I personally prefer Prophecy’s other March release, Dornenreich’s Flammentriebe.
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