Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Review: Beseech - Drama (2004)

Napalm Records

The Swedish Gothic Metal icons Beseech have returned in early 2004 with Drama, their highly anticipated follow-up to the classic Souls Highway. The latter album had simply blown me away and, as a result, was awarded the first ever 5-star rating here at Harvest Moon Music. Would Drama be able to hold up against such a powerful predecessor? As seemingly simple a question as that may be, the answer cannot be confined to a simple yes or no response. No, Drama does not match the pure power and emotion of Souls Highway so those expecting Souls Highway Part 2 will be disappointed. However, Beseech  (more specifically main songwriter Robert Vintervind) has reached out and embraced new elements and subtly incorporated them into the bands core sound, thus expanding upon the winning formula of their previous album. In comparison to Souls Highway, the music of Drama is softer, not as heavy, and relies less upon guitar melodies and more on the keyboards and vocals for atmosphere. The departure of lead guitarist Klas Bohlin has indeed affected the overall sound of Beseech, with the guitar being less in the forefront and with a slight change in overall guitar tone, but the difference is not detrimental.

The majority of the songs on Drama are noteworthy, but there were a couple that for me stood a tad above the rest. The first is "Higher Level", a mid-paced song of lust and Gothic sexuality (the subject matter having much to do with why it's my favorite track on the album). Heavy on the bass with a decent driving riff, Erik Molarin's baritone during the chorus makes it one of the most memorable tunes on the disc. The comparisons to Type O Negative have come often, and aren't unwarranted, though Beseech possesses a sound distinctly different from the Brooklyn-based Godfathers of Goth - that is, until "Voices". This track could have come straight off of Life Is Killing Me or October Rust with its melancholic piano, fuzzy atmospherics and crushing, distorted riffs. Erik even adopts a softer baritone that mimics Pete Steele quite remarkably. You'd almost think it was a guest appearance. The striking similarities aside, the song is a wonderful Gothic composition in its own right. While the first half of the album is a bit slow compared to Souls Highway, "Bitch" revs up the pace with considerably distorted riffs and a heavy bass drive. The wall of guitar sound is punctuated by Mikael Back's piano and great vocal interplay between Erik and Lotta Hoglin. "Addicted" shows somewhat of a departure of style for the band. Incorporating Industrial synth elements and groove, the song comes off sounding very much like Marilyn Manson. Again with heavy bass, but this time with a more aggressive drive to the riffs, the band pulls off the switch. Closing out Drama is "Friend Emptiness", somewhat of a power ballad featuring the alluring voice of Lotta. While she figures prominently in most of Beseech's songs, to me it seemed as if she was holding something back. Clearly she was! On this track her voice simply soars, reaching new heights of power and emotion. At times sounding a bit like Shirley Manson (Garbage), Lotta delivers big and makes a marginal ballad one of the most powerful songs on the album.

For me the weak spot of Drama was "Forever Falling", with an opening guitar sound that belongs on a Chris Isaak album instead of here. The slow pace of the song didn't do much for me either. Besides that one complaint, and the fact that the album is far too short, Drama is a solid follow-up to its classic forerunner and is an all-around well-executed Gothic Metal album. Fans of the band will be satisfied, but those looking to try Beseech for the first time should instead start with Souls Highway.

Track Listing
1 Drama
2 Higher Level
3 Voice
4 Forever Falling
5 Bitch
6 Addicted
7 Come On In
8 Friend Emptiness

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