Tenebre - Heart's Blood - Regain Records / Candlelight Cult Series 2006
Running Time: 41:03
Sweden's Tenebre have been at it in various incarnations for a decade now, spreading their dark gothic rock throughout Scandinavia and possibly beyond. Which, for me meant that I should expect at least a modicum of originality, possibly even a nudging against the boundaries of the fickle genre that is often mistakenly billed as goth. Turns out, Heart's Blood bears both a blessing and a curse.
"Silver Flame" carries a slight influence of The Cult (Love era), but when mixed with Kalle Metz's low-rent Peter Steele delivery, it dampens the shrouded doom that songs like this, bands like this need so desperately. Newsflash: Cripping the line "Light my fire" doesn't make you sound Morrisonesque; it makes you sound unoriginal, and horribly so. Not that the music itself is bad - it's just been done far too many times before to illicit more than passive acceptance. Tenebre works in a bit of Danzig near the end (more on that later) before the next exercise in predictability, "Mistress Of The Dark". This type of punked up neo-glam was cool when Peter Murphy unwittingly gave "goth" its snarl in the early '80s, but if I want this type of music, I'd go to the originators, thanks. This type of blatant mimicry is almost insulting to the artists pushing the boundaries of the genre, such as The Cruxshadows or Switchblade Symphony. Overly-processed drums join that same faux dissonant guitar for "Shine", the vocalist moaning over the lethargic music like the only one in his Magic: The Gathering club not invited to the vampire masquerade ball. I really looked for some originality with this band. So far, though, it's not happening. Metz is a shoe-in for Rockstar: Type O Negative if Peter Steele ever gets his wish and kicks the bucket, or goes back to work for the New York Parks Department. Musically, Tenebre tries to inject some weird triphop beat into "Blue", which doesn't work for this style of music. At least they're trying something halfassedly original, though, so it's hard to fault them when that's all I've been bitching about so far. Now here's where Heart's Blood gets tricky. Somewhere between the misstep of "Blue" and the strident chug of "Pray", Tenebre morphs into a different band, and the result is what saves the album. Sure, the music is relatively the same in "Nightmare", but there's a bite to the vocals and fire in the guitars that it's taken the band seven songs to get to. The keys still dominate the mix at times, but the guitarists crank out some pretty convincing goth metal here. Is that a lead guitar I hear at the break? If the mix didn't make Heart's Blood sound like a Bassist Seeks Band demo, "Nightmare" would rip from the speakers quite nicely. From the opening strains of the title track, you can feel the Danzig homage coming a mile away, recalling the intro to How The Gods Kill. It's a nice diversion, I'm just not sure why it took Tenebre until the latter half of the album to get things going. For fans of the first three Danzig albums and Circle Of Snakes, this will sell you on giving Tenebre a second chance if you'd written them off before. It seems that somewhere in the shadows, a solid drummer and pretty fiery guitarist have been lurking. Thanks for coming out, guys. You've made Heart's Blood a better listen. The true surprise comes with the somber acoustics of "Night Reborn", calling forth images of Human Drama with a different vocalist, and ending the album on a far better note than it began.
If you're into the dark ambience of the Projekt label, labelmates Bronx Casket Co., or Type O Negative's less dense work, you'll find something worthwhile here. If not, you'd probably never have picked up Heart's Blood in the first place. Myself, I'll program the last half of Tenebre's latest on shuffle with October Rust, and call it a night.