There is something irresistibly fascinating in the way a well-thought-out orchestration brings out the true identity of a song. Electronic dance music and metal, in particular, are genres that masterfully hide the essence in multiple layers of synth textures or a distorted wall of sound. Gothic and industrial are sub-genres of metal that draw on especially harsh, transgressive, and provocative elements. Sometimes, when you strip away these abrasive coatings and lay the soul of the song fully naked, you might find something of extraordinary beauty that simply disarms you. LORD OF THE LOST is a German Gothic metal act that certainly has incorporated all the hallmark elements of metal provocation in their music. On 7 August 2020, the band returns with the newest epos in their classic ensemble album series, ”Swan Songs III,” due out via Napalm Records.
The album consists of a few new songs, paired with new versions of a hand-picked selection of old classics, all recorded with THE LORD OF THE LOST ENSEMBLE. While it isn’t a novel idea to give the classical music treatment to a bunch of metal songs, ”Swan Songs III” easily ranks among the best efforts to date. The orchestration complements the songs and the album spotlights the band at its most immaculate and fragile. Furthermore, this stripped-down approach reveals, in a rather tangible way, that LORD OF THE LOST is not just about the metal aggression of bands such as MINISTRY or NINE INCH NAILS. Its irresistible charm is in equal amounts indebted to LADY GAGA and the new romantic synth-pop movement of the 1980s.
The very first notes on the album embrace you with a tight grip like a viper coiling around the heart of its victim. ”A Splintered Mind” tugs on the heartstrings with the aura of some of the best DEPECHE MODE classics from the past. The lyrics touch on the subject of being vulnerable in such a way that it feels like thorns sticking into your skin. This creates quite a contrast to the image of the band’s frontman, Chris Harms, bellowing the industrial metal gospel dressed in a drag queen-ish attire in the band’s music video for the song ”Loreley” on the band’s previous studio album, ”Thornstar” (2018). The impact is pretty much of the same caliber as if the 1980s Gothic synth-pop band DEAD OR ALIVE had unplugged their synth rigs and performed a bit of ”Eleanor Rigby”-style chamber pop. When the execution is of this caliber, though, there’s no way in hell LORD OF THE LOST could sound out of place.
One of the defining characteristics of the album is the distinguished feeling of timelessness. Maybe it derives from the strong melodies, pristine arrangements, and shimmering production. It is a tell-tale sign of great songwriting. Another one is the dark undercurrent that runs through the album. Occasionally, the band treads the same emotional depths as the landmark acoustic songs of bands such as HIM, GODSMACK, and SHINEDOWN. Despite the album flowing pretty consistently from start to finish, a few tracks stand out for incorporating a dash of special ingredients. ”Dying on the Moon” features guest vocals by American singer-songwriter Joy Frost and ”We Were Young” features the 70+ choir, HEAVEN CAN WAIT, with the latter track underlying the fact that music has the power to bring generations together. Excluding the two bonus tracks, which are simply different versions of these two aforementioned tracks, the album closes in silence – with the ”cover” of the famous John Cage composition, ”4’33”,” which consists of silence lasting four minutes and thirty-three seconds. At first, it might sound like a stupid gimmick, but listening through the album in one go, it is truly the best way to bring the album to a close. Two other tracks gather momentum with repeated listenings. ”Agape” and ”Hurt Again” are like the opposing sides of a coin, depicting the emotional turmoils of love and pain with haunting accuracy.
”Swan Songs III” sounds like LORD OF THE LOST is shedding the skin of its metal past for the third time around. The album takes you on a sonic journey to an enchanted space with a concept that might be somewhat worn-out and clichéd. The band’s flawless execution of this devil’s dozen of songs, paired with the band’s deeply emotional storytelling prowess, makes the listening experience worth every minute of it. For the true dark-metal connoisseurs, ”Swan Songs III” also comes with a deluxe box-set, including the instrumental ”Swan Symphonies III”-versions of all songs and demo versions of eight new songs. As a special bonus, there is also a full live set, recorded at the band’s 10th-anniversary show in 2019 in their hometown of Hamburg. This deluxe banquet comes on seven CDs! This package should definitely arouse the interest of every music junkie with a soft spot for the darkly shaded chamber music that has the crushing impact of metal while being intimate halfway between voyeur and eye-witness.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- A Splintered Mind
- A One Ton Heart
- Dying On the Moon (feat. Joy Frost)
- Hurt Again
- We Were Young (feat. HEAVEN CAN WAIT Choir)
- Dying On the Moon (Joyless Version)
- We Were Young (feat. HEAVEN CAN WAIT Choir)
Chris Harms – Vocals, Violoncello, Semi-acoustic Guitar
π – Acoustic Guitar
Class Grenayde – Acoustic Bass
Gared Dirge – Grand Piano
Niklas Kahl – Percussions
LORD OF THE LOST ENSEMBLE:
Bengt Jaeschke: Acoustic Guitar
Corvin Bahn: Organ, Harpsichord, Celeste
Maline Zickow: 1st Violin
Felicitas Fischbein: 2nd Violin
Ida Luzie Phlipp: Viola
Miriam Göbel: Violoncello
Julia C. Pfänder: Contrabass
Daniel Möhrke: Percussions
Henrik Petschull: Percussions