Friday, December 16, 2005

Review: Beseech - Sunless Days (2005)

Sunless Days
Napalm Records

Sweden's Beseech have clawed their way into the ranks of such notable Gothic metal bands as Tiamat, H.I.M., and Lacuna Coil. Their 2002 album Souls Highway is a classic of the genre and with the Stateside success of H.I.M., Beseech is perhaps more than ever poised for a commercial breakthrough. In an attempt to capitalize on the trend slowly seeping into American radio, the band has released their fifth studio album Sunless Days. Still unable to reach the power and emotion of Souls Highway, the new album is nonetheless a quality Gothic metal/rock album sure to please loyal fans and could conceivably win some new ones.

Having already created a practically flawless album, measuring up to it on each subsequent release proves to be a difficult task. Drama, though good, fell short of expectations. More comparable to Drama than Souls Highway, Sunless Days does not hold a candle to the 2002 classic but is solid in its own right, embracing the expansion of vision first introduced by Drama. Once again, the most prominent difference is the voice of Erik Molarin. As on the previous release, he mostly eschews his deepest baritone for a softer delivery much more akin to Johan Edlund (Tiamat) and Valo Ville (H.I.M.). However, "Devil's Plaything" (a fantastic cover of the Danzig song) and "The Outpost" offer a return to the vocalizations that were so mesmerizing on Souls Highway. The vocal mix between Erik and Lotta Höglin remains an integral element of Beseech's sound, though Erik has hold of the majority of the vocal parts. Lotta does take the lead on occasion, with the ballad "Lost" being a welcome showcase for her to explore the power and range of her voice. Quite slow and accompanied only by piano, Lotta dips and soars along with the mournful melody.

The impact of the departure of guitarist Klas Bohlin was felt on Drama, and so Manne Engström joined the ranks of Beseech for the new album. The guitar sound is much thicker this time around, with some very deep riffs and solemn leads from Robert Vintervind. The plucky melody of "The Outpost" is a highlight, helping making that track one of my favorite on the album. The cover of "Devil's Plaything" beats them all to rank first on my list, however, with Erik at his best vocally and some truly crushing riffs from Vintervind and Engström. Beyond those two tracks and the fast-moving "Innerlane", I found the remainder of Sunless Days to be good but somewhat indistinct. The songs are pleasurable to listen to, but not compelling.

The limited edition comes with two bonus tracks. The first is a remake of "Manmade Dreams", a song that first appeared on the band's second album Black Emotions. The 2005 version trumps the original with a richer guitar sound and of course a superior vocal performance. Closing the album is the second bonus track, "Lost (emotional version)", which is a major disappointment. This version of Lotta's solo ballad would be more properly titled the "emotionless" version. Her performance on the album version, as well as the lush piano accompaniment make the bonus version feel bleak and sterile. If not for "Manmade Dreams", I would suggest saving a few pennies by steering clear of the limited edition.

Beseech have, with their last two albums, announced the creative direction in which they are taking their music. It is not to further explore the magical formula found on Souls Highway, but instead to chase the likes of H.I.M. and Evanescence to commercial success. Their music is still good, and worthy of any Goth metal fan's collection, but I fear their innovative days may be behind them.

Track Listing
2The Outpost5:18
3A Bittersweet Tragedy4:07
4Everytime I Die4:03
5Devil's Plaything4:49
7Last Obsession3:40
8Emotional Decay3:54
9Restless Dreams5:44
10Reversed Mind2:04
11Manmade Dreams [bonus]4:39
12Lost (emotional version) [bonus]3:49

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