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Where Lovers Rot : Autumn Tears (EP)

With this EP, Portland's Where Lovers Rot seriously start to capitalise on the promise of their 2014 demo.

Following on from their 2014 demo, Portland's Where Lovers Rot went on to release a digital single (that also ended up as a split CD alongside a track by Lonesome October), add a second guitarist, and thence on to this late-2016 EP.

It's undoubtedly an improvement, in many ways, over the somewhat raw demo: however, there are a couple of items which struck me as a little peculiar from the off. The first is that the soundstage is a little confusing - there's a lush sound filled with vocal and instrumental detail, but it all sounds quite crowded into the mix, with different elements sometimes competing to be heard rather than complementing each other. Where there is separation, it can be weirdly skewed - such as with twin layers of vocalist Sara's lines occupying centre and left channel, and something entirely different to the right. Combined, those make it harder than it should be to follow and absorb all that's going on, and it takes a few listens to get a handle on everything. The second thing is the beauty-and-the-beast vocal approach. It's not that it's done badly, or that the growls don't sit well enough within the music itself - they're fine in that sense; it's simply that they seem at odds with the mournful, poignant and romantic lyrics they're delivering. A greater use of cleans and the Saturnus-style whisper, as found on 'Crimson Dawn', could have been a better match for the not-very-beastly character of the male protagonist.

Whether that second point troubles you or not is likely to be entirely a matter of taste and pedantry, and possibly neither justify second-guessing what a band 'should' or 'could' have done with their material. And, to be fair on the first point, the mix is far from unlistenable - just less accessible and spacious than it could have been. It doesn't hide the fact that there's some strong songwriting involved, with each of the three eight-minute tracks narrating a cleverly-spun musical journey that nods fairly equally towards My Dying Bride, Draconian and even Shape Of Despair in places - though with some of the classical/symphonic elements, you might also consider When Nothing Remains. The musicianship is varied and interesting - it's nice to hear flanger making a comparatively-rare Doom appearance, for example - and it'd be hard to find anything amiss with the way the arrangements draw each track onward. Hard too, not to notice how much the vocals have come on in the last two years - where they could sound forced and awkward on the demo, now they integrate fully and much more naturally with the sweep of the music, especially with the Within Temptation-esque tones of the female clean and choral parts.

Though the melodic Gothic/Doom genre isn't especially short of entries, surprisingly few of them originate from the US: those that do tend to have a sound that differs somewhat from the Eurocentric one. Where Lovers Rot are no exception, sounding quite fresh in their willingness to include spacy, rock guitarwork and delicate, crystalline keyboards in amongst the more classic Gothic staples. I think they're clearly talented, with some good ideas, plenty of creativity and an already-demonstrated ability and desire to improve: that makes for a promising future. I wouldn't say that 'Autumn Tears' quite delivers on all that potential just yet, but it's certainly a good step in the right direction - let's just say that I can quite understand why Lonesome October (a band I rate quite highly) would be happy to have shared space with them. And, regardless - particularly if you're moved by operatic female-fronted Gothic music anyway - this ventures far enough and effectively enough off-piste to be worth investigating.

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Reviewer's rating: 7/10


Tracklist :
1. Autumn Tears
2. Star-Crossed
3. Crimson Dawn

Duration : Approx. 24 minutes

Visit the Where Lovers Rot bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-03-13 by Mike Liassides
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