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Lovelorn Dolls - Darker Ages (2018) - Review

Band: Lovelorn Dolls
Album title: Darker Ages
Release date: 9 February 2018
Label: Alfa Matrix

01. Darker Days
02. Dead Sea
03. Lament
04. Shining Star
05. Happy Endings
06. Psalms (In The Name Of God)
07. Love Missile
08. Maniac Girl
09. Legenda Natura
10. Another World

I remember reviewing this Belgium based duo in 2014 when they released their previous album, the weirdly titled Japanese Robot Invasion. It was a pretty interesting female fronted gothic rock/metal album with many influences from various styles. Now Lovelorn Dolls are back with their third full-length and if on their previous releases they were still in search for their own stylistical expression, I think that now these two Belgians are standing on a way more solid ground with Darker Ages. While Japanese Robot Invasion was hugely influenced by The Birthday Massacre, on this new effort Lovelorn Dolls found some new shores and if the influence of before mentioned Canadians is still present, we can find also some strong connotation with female fronted late 90s and mid 2000s gothic metal of Theatre Of Tragedy (Aegis, Musique, Assembly), early Leaves' Eyes (Lovelorn), Lacuna Coil (Comalies, Karmacode, Shallow Life), Mandragora Scream (Madhouse), Liv Kristine (Deus Ex Machina) and mid era Sirenia (Nine Destinies And A Downfall), yet they show that classic gothic rock of The Sisters Of Mercy and The Cure is pretty close to their hearts. The vocalist Ladyhell and multiinstrumentalist Corpus Christi for sure did their most elaborate and mature album, it's also the most cohesive and accessible thing they did so far.

Darker Ages is thematically an album with a strong message and is absolutely an immersive one, talking about sombre events of our everyday life, like is the rise of religious extremism, terror attacks, the ageing society, wars, betrayals,... in a courageous struggle and continuous quest for a spiritual renewal. The two don't experiment with several styles like is industrial, synthwave, alternative rock and modern metal like they used to do in the past, even though they smootly use some of that and smartly blends it into something more elaborate and create a truly coherent and captivating gothic metal with a unpretentious yet catchy pop edge. Darker Ages offers pretty dark soundscapes and what shines best here are the vocals. Ladyhell sings with very emotive, strong, powerful and above all dynamic yet versatile voice, better than she used to before, even though that I must be honest and say that also the mix helps here a lot. Her voice reminds to Liv Kristine (ex-Theatre Of Tragedy, ex-Leaves' Eyes, Midnattsol), Chibi (The Birthday Massacre) and Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), and I'm more than sure that fans of these ladies will love Lovelorn Dolls.

Musically Lovelorn Dolls keep everything constantly quite catchy and melodic, most of the songs are based on mid paced or even slow simple rhythmic line, with some electronic samples, gloomy atmospheric synths and gothic rock insertions that certainly add that little necessary surplus to these compositions. The drums are all over a bit too simplistic, but with some nice guitar riffs and a couple of leads Corpus Christi enriches what should otherwise be too melow. Also some cinematic insertions like is the use of news report in "Dead Sea" (it reminds me a bit to what Falco did in "Jeanny") is a very nice addition that makes it pretty dramatic. The rather upbeat "Shining Star" with a great refrain will for sure satisfy the appetites of gothic metallers, while "Lament" should be a real treat for those who like to hear some industrial/electronic sequences inside their rock or metal music. There's also plenty of moments that will appeal to classic gothsters, mostly because of the constantly implemented melancholy in the songs.

Each one of ten songs on Darker Ages brings forth a bit different vibe, but yet it seems that everything follows the same line, just listen for example to extremely catchy "Happy Endings", right after that to the haunting vibrant dark atmospheric "Psalms", and then to the captivating heavy gothic guitars and vocally very strong "Love Missile", to understand what I mean. Of course there's some mellowness present in some of the songs, but it doesn't hurt that much, because as an entirety it flows pretty smoothly. The heavy "Maniac Girl" is like a simple mix between The Birthday Massacre and Lacuna Coil, while "Legenda Natura" is a bit more solar but mystical piece with an outstanding drive. I was surprised in the end how well the vocals are performed and mixed in the otherwise quite repetitive last song "Another World", characterized by the beautiful contribution of a multi-cultural children choir offering a very nice ending.

Darker Ages is a very good album that shows how this Belgian duo has matured in the songwriting and I think they now found a trajectory line which they should cultivate even further to bring us next time a true masterpiece. I'm not saying that Darker Ages is not good, contrary, it's quite mesmerizing, with many addictive parts that will get under your skin, but I think that the instrumental side could be a bit more dense and rich, but still with just some minor corrigendum it could be that real thing. It has a decent production and it's mixed perfectly. It's an album that will for sure satisfy many different fans of dark female fronted music, from gothic rockers, dark pop fans, to fans of gothic metal and soft industrial metal. In todays gothic metal scene there's a lack of quality female fronted bands, but with Lovelorn Dolls we have got one band that knows how the things should be done without becoming obtrusive. The album also comes as a limited edition with a 12-track bonus disc starting with a very personal cover of Nine Inch Nails‘ “Hurt” plus various remixes of album songs.

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 7,5/10