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Where Lovers Rot : Fallen From Grace

Portland's Where Lovers Rot continue to refine their Gothic Symphonic Doom with this debut full-length album.

Well, I probably owe Portland, Oregon's Where Lovers Rot a bit of an apology, given that this review has been scuffing around in unfinished format for about six months now. Which certainly wasn't my intention - and seems a bit churlish considering they were good enough to give me an always-appreciated thank-you in the album credits - but I simply couldn't quite find the right words to complete it. Not that it's a particularly 'difficult' album, at least in the sense of 'hard to listen to': quite the opposite, in fact, being a polished melodic/symphonic Gothic Doom/Metal opus that sits very easily on the ears. That very nature, though, places it in quite a wide and extensive bracket of both my record collection and my listening preferences, which makes it really easy to end up falling into an ever-decreasing spiral of comparisons and namedrops which are neither entirely fair, nor entirely useful.

The most obvious, yet perhaps also most superficial, of those is still 'early Within Temptation', and there are some undeniable points of reference in the bombastic keyboards, the staccato Gothic Metal breaks, the 'beauty and the beast' dialogues, and the fact that female vocalist Sara Fallico really does sound a lot like Sharon den Adel at times. However, what little flirtation Within Temptation had with dark romanticism and vampire mythology was pretty much confined to debut 'Enter', whereas - to my ears at least - those influences, with a liberal helping of Gothic Americana, are what Where Lovers Rot have been developing as they've improved and refined their sound over the last several years.

Normally - in pure Gothic Metal terms - that'd lead into the sort of territory occupied by Morgana's Kiss and Mandragora Scream, or possibly post-Morten/Vibeke Tristania, but WLR also have more varied Doom influences feeding into their sound. You can hear hints of all of those throughout the album, mainly depending on how closely you're following the lead guitar, the keyboard lines or the vocals as the primary driver of the songs. It's actually quite an interesting exercise to concentrate on each of them, and see how that affects your perception of the album - the first is firmly rooted in classic Metal leads, the second has a more pervasive, atmospheric symphonic, sometimes almost-electro, feel, and the third is what really pulls out the Gothic elements. What I will add, though, is that all of those elements, this time around, are more clearly well-executed and better synchronised, showing a much-developed compositional maturity to go with the similarly improved production. Taken as a whole, 'Fallen From Grace' covers a fair bit of ground, from the opening title track's Saturnus influences through the almost poppy Metal of 'Into The Dead Of Night', into the weighty and massive semi-funereal Draconian-ish twenty minutes of the closing two tracks, with their more prevalent harsh vocals.

The tidy, self-released, slim gatefold digipak throws something of a nod towards Lovecraft's remote and ancient New England forests, haunted by elder horrors, but the (unpublished) lyrics point towards more generic themes - typically along the lines of darkness, mortality and immortality, grief and pain. There's not much new in there, but there perhaps doesn't have to be: they manage to be evocative enough to suit the music, and the occasional whispered passages are an effective delivery.

The female vocals are more ambiguous in nature, inasmuch as they're primarily what steers the trajectory of 'Fallen From Grace' - after the title track, the trio of 'Into The Dead Of Night', 'The Path Of Fire And Thorns' and 'Immortal Love' front-load the album with more histrionic upper-register vocals and a lighter, faster tone, while the second half slows down to delve into more obviously deeper and darker territories. Fair enough, I suppose, given that the band describe themselves as Symphonic Doom: what they deliver is akin to the mix of uptempo and doomy found in the likes of Via Mistica or Ashes You Leave. I don't know that it quite works perfectly here, with the album split into roughly equal segments - instead of a subtly contrasting chiaroscuro, it suggests more that if it was an old-school LP, you could easily imagine it being labelled "This Side (Metal)" and "Other Side (Doom)".

Well, that's not necessarily a criticism, as such, but it is what had me scratching my head a little over how best to sum up this release. It's certainly a distinct step forward, in terms of all phases of the musical content, but I can't help feeling that there's a bit more of a need for focus in how to balance bridging the two main styles on display over the course of a full-length. Here, it's a little like listening to two differently-influenced EPs back-to-back rather than fully creating the more coherent atmosphere of an album - hence the wide range of possible comparisons, depending on whereabouts on the Gothic scale your preferred listening taste falls. That's hardly the most grievous of ills for a debut album venture, though - I couldn't even begin to count how many of those have been put together from a fistful of different demos, rather than written as a whole work, and many of them are far more egregious about it than 'Fallen From Grace'. So, with that in mind (and the slight caveat that purist Doomsters might want to skip straight to 'Only Memories', and take it from there), I do think the efforts and steady improvements Where Lovers Rot have made over the past number of years deserve recognition and recommendation. Particularly if, like me, you're a fan of music right across the Gothic spectrum (in which case, feel free to tack on a half-mark to the final score: I wrestled with that, too, but ended up scoring it on - hopefully - an objective view of Doom, rather than Gothic, content).

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Fallen From Grace
2. Into The Dead Of Night
3. The Path Of Fire And Thorns
4. Immortal Love
5. Only Memories
6. My Grieving Sun
7. The Domain Of Lost Souls

Duration : Approx. 44 minutes

Visit the Where Lovers Rot bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-06-05 by Mike Liassides
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