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Liv Kristine - Libertine (Napalm Records)

By: David E. Gehlke

[7.5/10] Likeable and pristine, Liv Kristine (hooray for rhyming) seems to have gotten the better end of her split from once-promising symphonic metallers Theatre of Tragedy. In fact, one can remember the band trotting Kristine out in skin-tight leather as means of portraying her as another soulless, thoughtless frontwoman, yet she's managed retain her clothes (and brain) while fronting Leaves' Eyes, who have managed to have a much more successful career than ToT. It's a rare story of a ballyhooed siren surpassing the band that helped make her, something the likes of Tarja Turunen, Floor Jansen, and Anneke van Giersbergen continue to struggle with.

Libertine happens to be Kristine's fourth solo effort, playing in the arena of soft, melodic rock that is more The Gathering than Nightwish. Kristine's fluffy, ethereal vocals are suitably divisive; not airy enough for the opera crowd, and probably too girly for regular pop metal tinkerings, yet across the board on Libertine, she serves the songs well, usually coming through with a nimble hook or mood shift. She's joined by virtually the entire Leaves' Eyes clan, including husband Alexander Krull, who in this setting, acts as producer. (His manly-man grunts definitely aren't needed here.)

And so with Libertine goes Kristine's gentle vocal approach, which makes cuts like "Save Me," "Vanilla Skin Delight" and "Wait for Rain" promising alternatives to the symphonic bombast carried out in her main act. The real songs of worth end up being the piano-driven "Silence" and "Meet Me in the Red Sky," two songs that display an honest, heartfelt brand of tenderness, something that Kristine has zero problem with, given the already sweet and "loving" nature of her vocals.

The appeal of Libertine probably won't go beyond the hardcore Leaves' Eyes contingent the followers of the vaunted soft, ethereal Goth sound The Gathering made famous in the '90's. Hard to believe it's been almost a decade since she was unceremoniously dumped from Theatre of Tragedy. Guess she's laughing last, eh?

Liv Kristine official site

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