One heavy metal album for taking to the afterlife?
The Thing About is a series of short, simple heavy metal reviews. Scroll down to the headings that interest you most or read the whole thing. The previous installment was about the album Anesthetic by Mark Morton.
This series began in melodic death metal, and I’m back here again. The kickstarter was about bands from the Nineties, big and small, and all beloved. Livløs, however, is a newer band demonstrating it has learned from its elders and is willing to emulate them, perhaps even best them. On And Then There Were None, the band takes death seriously — Who doesn’t, really? — and it’s one album you should hear before setting sail for the unknown territory.
Livlos is “lifeless” from Denmark. According to The Metal Archives, the band formed in 2014, released an EP soon after and then the full-length album Into Beyond in 2018. The band’s Bandcamp page describes the music as “grandiose” and “intense,” and its old website (apparently changed while writing this review) said it explores themes of “life and death.” The band has had a couple lineup changes over the years, with Søren Frambo and Niklas Lykke coming in on bass and vocals, respectively. And Then There Were None is the band’s second full-length album, released in 2021.
The album charges through the gates with “And Then There Were None,” high-pitched barks, neo-classical riffs, and a beat that’s alllll upbeat at the start before the blasting starts. The rest of the album follows with energetic riffs, drums that always find the right thing to do, and vocals that are humorous, as in they range from choleric to phlegmatic, but literally phlemagtic. The album really kicks in at track three, “Mortal Severance,” which has a plodding mid-paced tempo with a memorable, slewing riff. Another album highlight follows in “Pallbearer,” in which the drummer leans into his snare for a few bass-assisted, blissful moments of aural onslaught. Side 1 closes with an acoustic interlude, but side 2 resumes the assault.
The lyrics are, as might be expected, about death. The album begins with the line “Life is such an ephemeral thing,” and asks in the album’s final lines, “Where do we go?” The answer, which immediately follows, is “the purest black.” In between are “Mortal Severance” and a track titled “Gallows,” so the whole album is a fairly bleak, if musically rousing, affair. If there is hope in these grooves, it’s as brief as the lives of those of us who cling to it.
The album wears these themes on its cover, a painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. The Polish-born artist has been something of a phenomenon in recent heavy metal art, bestowing his gifts upon countless bands, from doomers like Bell Witch and tech-deathers like Psycroptic. His style, blending dark romanticism with the surreal, is often explicitly about death, and even when it isn’t, manages to suggest death anyway. All those souls adrift, confronting spirits of the afterlife, curious beings often unrecognizable but at times familiar from already-existing iconographies.
And Then There Were None is no different. The cover art shows a vast landscape, rocky and split by crevices lit by hellish fires. Diminutive black figures appear to be making their way across this wasteland toward a fiery portal in the folds of the robes of a Grip Reaper who towers overhead. Opening the gatefold reveals a water-covered landscape on the back cover, the far shore ablaze, a yellow sun overhead. So far, this is all what you expect from Lewandowski.
What I love most, however, is the vaguely feminine form of the Grim Reaper. She’s more slender than skeletal, this Lady Death, which is most apparent in her hands. In her left, she grips a scythe. In the other, she buries her face. From it, trail twisted strands of hair or ragged strands of her garb, looped and giving the impression of a rosary for threnodic prayers. Who would have thought Death to mourn at her harvest? These unexpected touches set this work among Lewandowski’s best.
This blazes, keeping the melodies in the guitar and restricting the vocals to tortured. That means none of the popfusion that has infected some of the oldest, most popular bands still working in melodic death metal. Here’s hoping Livløs has a future discography in similarly devastating works.
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