Eleine – Until the End (Black Lodge Records)

Monday, 5th March 2018
Rating: 9/10

Gothic metal has long survived on the ‘beauty and the beast’ vocal stylings of a strong female singer and male growler. The problem usually lies with the remainder of the music, which serves as background filler while the two exchange lines. Substandard riffs and over-the-top bombastic synths are usually the norm, ultimately decreasing the effectiveness of the vocal pairing and moving the band towards tedium. Why all this talk? Sweden’s Eleine, on their second effort, set an example for many in the genre to follow with the excellent Until the End.

All of the usual trimmings necessary for the genre are here, and held in good hands. The first key standout is obviously that of vocalist Madeleine Liljestam, who gives a charismatic performance that has all the power necessary to pull you in. Saccharine ballad “Please” oozes this gothic flair without being too melodramatic due to her genuine emotional draw. On the other end, a more uptempo and heavy track like “Echoes” stays grounded due to her eloquent take on the material. Providing the male growls is that of Rikard Ekberg (who is also the guitarist), who may employ the genre standard, but it’s a pairing that works well on tracks like “Whisper My Child,” with swirling bombast and more downtuned and heavy moments.

But what brings Eleine to a place above most gothic metal is the music that surrounds the vocals. They can dig into the usual gothic flair such as “Story Untold,” but underneath it lies an almost melodic death level of heavy at times. “Sanity” seems to take some punch from the earlier Swedish death metal scene with its knack for groove, which provides a sturdy backbone for the symphonic elements. “Break Take Live” also swings towards the heavier side of things, with a shreddy solo and plenty of aggression below the surface. There’s emphasis given to ensure that it’s not only vocals that listeners are bound to remember. This approach also gives them more dynamics to contrast against when they do execute a more ‘poppy’ track like “Another Rite,” where the vocals are cast front and center to highlight an addictive and epic chorus.

Surprisingly heavier than expected, Until the End takes much of the usual gothic tones of this style, amplifies them with stronger backing musicianship, and crafts them into something far more interesting. Eleine should be at the forefront of this movement, and certainly will be with continued efforts like this one.

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