Lake of Tears – Ominous Review

Sweden’s Lake of Tears may be one of the most chameleon-like bands in metal history. Over their 27 year career they’ve morphed from Gothic doom to prog, stoner space rock, and onto dark prog with blackened edges. Somehow they always did justice to the disparate styles they tinkered with, and like those many flavored jelly beans in Harry Potter, you never knew what you would get from album to album. It’s been almost ten years since 2011s Illwill and I’d started to think of Lake of Tears in the past tense. Then along came ninth album Ominous. The band is now down to just vocalist/guitarist Daniel Brennare, and it seems he isn’t in the most positive of mindsets these days. Ominous references various moments of the diverse Lake of Tears style catalog, but it’s heavily based in depressive Goth rock territory with themes of depression, isolation, and loneliness rendered in painful detail. If nothing else, it’s a very timely piece sure to speak to what many of us are experiencing as we approach the one year doomiversary of the COVID pandemic and the enforced isolation it necessitates. Are you ready for 51 Shades of Grey?

The lead single “At the Destination” dropped some weeks back and I admit I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of it. It’s a weird, trippy tune blending electronica, Goth rock and post-punk as it tells of a lost spaceship desperately searching for something or someone to connect with. It effectively blends upbeat moments with melancholic segments and the soundbite of someone plaintively saying “Hello?”  with no response is a repeated motif on the album. When some sad string instruments join the fray on the back end it adds an extra bleak vibe to what is an odd duck tune even by Lake of Tears standards. “In Wait and in Worries” is classic LoT – a dreary, mournful ballad heavy on hopelessness. Its theme of isolation and abandonment is expertly paired with a minimalist structure, leaving Brennare’s despondent vocals to carry the day, and carry he does. “Lost in a Moment” turns darker and heavier with the guitars flirting with black metal. The song also strongly referencing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in tone and texture at points. So much so that part of me keeps waiting for a reference to Major Tom to pop up.

After a midsection that sags a bit under the weight of all the despair and angst, Ominous finishes strong with its best material. “Cosmic Sailor” is the album highlight – a brooding number similar to “House of the Setting Sun” off Illwill. David Bowie influences resurface, as do nods to the darker edges of Pink Floyd. It’s an interesting little number you could imagine appearing on The Wall or any of Bowie’s early albums. The album closes with “In Gloom” which takes a sharp turn into countrified Tom Waits territory, which is just fine by me. It’s like stripped down Goth Americana with sullen strings as Brennare’s voice adopts Waits’ broken growl one minute and the smooth baritone of Peter Murphy the next, and the end result is quite impressive. With all these various influences at work, Ominous is still a very one-note album using a limited grey on grey palette. Some cuts don’t fully come to life (“Ominous Two” and “The End of This World”) and there are only scattered moments hinting at the band’s heavier days. I would’ve liked more numbers like the upbeat “Ominous One” which reflects their Headstones era, but that’s just a personal preference.

Daniel Brennare apparently handled the bulk of the writing and performing, with Vesa Kenttäkumpu (Evocation, Cemetery 1213) adding some guitar and bass and Christian Silver (Cemetery 1213) helping with drums. Brennare clearly was/is the heart and soul of Lake of Tears as Ominous fits into their discography as seamlessly as anything could. He does a solid job vocally, showcasing an admittedly narrow emotional range but making it come alive fully and forcing the listener to feel his despair. The guitar-work is generally sparse but effectively morose and sometimes quite beautiful. The restrained use of strings adds an extra layer of gloom which works to the material’s benefit and gives it a funerary sheen.

Ominous is an album you’ll need to be patient with and allow it time to bore into your soul. It definitely requires the right headspace and it’s best experienced as a whole. It’s classic Lake of Tears though, and that makes me happy even as it tries so desperately to make me sad. I really missed this band and I’m glad they’re still able to wring an emotion or three out of the steel heart of Steel. Let them do the same to you. Recommended weirdness.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AFM Records
Releases Worldwide: February 19th, 2021

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