In the Whack-A-Mole game that is genre pigeonholing, Lake of Tears pop up all over the board, defying you to anticipate their next move. These Swedes have been around a very long time and have always defied easy answers as to what style they actually play. Generally described as gothic metal, they’ve wandered between psychedelic doom, goth-rock, quasi-thrash and pseudo-death over the years. Each album had its own unique flavor and approach while always keeping the distinctive LoT sound. Here on Illwill, their eighth album, they keep the guessing game alive and deliver a strange mix of styles but it all hangs together somehow and works well. With parallels to Paradise Lost, Cemetary, Charon and Type O Negative to name a few, they run all over the place but its always dark in tone and plenty melodic.
Things kick off with the brisk and energetic “Floating in Darkness” which has a distinctly Cemetary vibe in the riffing and vocals along with a catchy groove. Its goth metal but its heavy enough to keep most metal heads interested. The title track delves even deeper in the dark side of the LoT sound and its a winner with a slow grinding approach and bleak, despairing vocals. Other moods sampled by LoT include the near thrash of “The Hating” and “Parasites” (which sounds like old Exciter), and the album highpoint, the one-two punch of “House of the Setting Sun” and “Behind the Green Door,” both moody, somber goth-rockers with tons of feeling and atmosphere. “House” is reminiscient of Tiamat while “Behind” employs a softer goth rock not unlike The Cult. Both songs set the quality standard and had me wanting instant replays (“Behind” is even based on a classic porn movie, though of course I don’t know about any of that stuff). The biggest surprise on Illwill has to be the closing number “Midnight Madness” which has a decidedly black metal attack. It sounds like a cross between Moonspell and latter-day Ulver and its pretty damn cool. I can’t recall anything like it in the past LoT material and its a happily grim treat. All the songs have something worthwhile going on and all have pretty winning choruses. You have to hand it to these guys for the diversity being offered here.
Daniel Brennare utilizes a variety of vocal styles throughout Illwill and while he isn’t blessed with the best set of pipes, he makes the most of what he has. He generally works within a mid range raspy style but dials it up to an angry growl at times while also managing to do the ballads justice with deep, low singing like the late great Pete Steele (especially on “Behind the Green Door”). Likewise, no one is going to accuse Fredrik Jordanius of being the most showy guitarist out there but he manages to craft consistently solid riffs for the diverse styles LoT dabbles in. He also comes up with a few big moments of inspired fretwork (emotional playing during “House of the Setting Sun” and the main riff pattern in “Midnight Madness” is addicting). His playing style is very straight forward on most songs and shockingly simplistic at times but it works fine.
Some minor gripes includes an on and off weakness in lyrics and an occasionally rough transition between styles. After two very sedate, moody goth numbers, the thrash of “Parasites” seems a little disorienting. But hey, thats part of the package with these guys. They like to jump around and that’s part of their charm.
Illwill is yet another diverse offering from a band that doesn’t get the recognition they deserve. The should get bigger props for being one of the few truly unique acts out there these days. While its not my favorite LoT album (that remains a tie between Headstones and Black Brick Road), its still a very good release with some top notch examples of the LoT sound and style. If you appreciate bands that resist easy categorization and have the ability to genre hop, LoT may be for you. Definitely worth checking out.