Lipshok – Shadows of a Dark Heart (Sliptrick Records)

Friday, 8th January 2021
Rating: 8/10

Combining influences from symphonic metal to gothic hard rock, California band Lipshok arrive at their fourth full-length Shadows of a Dark Heart confident and established in where they want to go stylistically. Transporting the listeners into an alternative universe through stories of Alice in Wonderland, Icarus, vampires, and other fables, the songwriting and abilities of the musicians create a sound that can be eclectic and heavy, tender yet morose, always thoughtful and adhering to a strong sense of catchy hooks and vibrant melodies.

The spotlight can be subtle and refreshing – the bass and emotive guitar work from Phil Jameson and Massimiliano Maggari respectively on the commercial-leaning “Don’t Fear Defeat” captivating, slithering in, out and around the sultry, seductive vocal abilities from keyboardist Scarlett Dark. The follow up “Looking Glass” displays some Dream Theater/Rush-like tom fills against a crescendo of cascading gothic keyboard/guitar parts – Scarlett again enveloping the aural canvas with a mixture of lower to mid-range vocal passages that weave a dynamic tapestry. When Lipshok choose to be softer and reflective, some of their older AOR-70’s rock aspects come to the forefront, “Without a Flame” carrying all the right Styx/Kansas charm in its symphonic bombast against bluesy lead work in a power ballad arrangement. Scarlett as the primary songwriter, keyboardist and vocalist is a triple-threat that captures attention through her diverse knowledge of rock, gothic and metal – self-assured to go in any direction, from the graceful “Alive Once More” to a mid-tempo epic march-oriented “Revenge” that takes an older Heart meets symphonic approach. You could imagine a lot of the wordplay and twists giving Lipshok plenty of visual/lighting situations to heighten tension and anticipation during live gigs to enhance what you hear from these eight tracks.

US symphonic metal and hard rock has a different flavor than a lot of the well-established European counterparts – and Lipshok isn’t going for the feel of Nightwish or Within Temptation here. They have a bit of that finesse and US gothic/70’s AOR-sheen that differentiates them from too much cinematic splendor. In turn, they could establish a solid following for those who want sensible melodies and hooks as well as killer musicianship flair from time to time.

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