Liv Kristine - River of Diamonds album art

Liv Kristine – River of Diamonds (Album Review)

Liv Kristine 2023 photo

The journey of Norwegian Singer Liv Kristine has been one full of triumph, but also heartache. A fixture within the European Metal scene for years, many consider Kristine a pioneer who paved the way for others to utilize angelic female vocals alongside male death metal growls. A style adopted and used by many; Kristine was a key contributor in one of the first of these bands to arrive, Theatre of Tragedy. Spending nearly a decade with Theatre of Tragedy, she was unceremoniously dismissed from the band through an email.

A tough pill to swallow, she would pick up the pieces and move forward, going onto to form the Symphonic Folk Metal leaning Leaves’ Eyes. Fronting the band for 13 years, touring regularly, and releasing 5 albums, this too would end in a rather peculiar way in 2016 which left Kristine out of the band she initially formed. Once again moving on, Kristine would join up with her sister Carmen Elise Espenæs in the band Midnattsol for the 2018 album The Aftermath. Feeling at home with family, Kristine remains a member of Midnattsol, however, the band has been quiet for some time.

So, what has the beloved soprano been up to? Well, in case anyone forgot, she also had a solo career amidst devoting her time to bands and lending her voice to others as a guest; this list of collaborations includes one with Cradle of Filth, another with End of Green’s Michelle Darkness, and so on. That in mind, Kristine put out her solo single “Skylight” in 2019, “Gravity” in 2020, followed by a 5-track EP in 2021 entitled Have Courage Dear Heart. All well and good, what started to become evident with her new music is that it was highly reminiscent of earlier work. What this means is the material is much more Gothic Metal based and less symphonic. So, what you get is something vastly similar to Theatre of Tragedy during their heyday when Kristine was still involved.

In truth, this is massively exciting for those who have followed Kristine through the decades, and now in 2023 she puts the exclamation point on this new chapter in her career with the full-length album River of Diamonds. Released on April 21st through Metalville Records, it marks Kristine’s first solo album in nearly a decade. That said, it comes with 12 songs, and shall we say, a ton of goodies for Gothic Metal lovers.

Curious what those treats might be? You should be, because they are really quite exciting. Not to leave you hanging in suspense, they are collaborations with Østen Bergøy (former clean vocalist during Tristania’s golden years), Moonspell’s Fernando Ribeiro, Kristine’s sister Carmen Elise Espenæs of Midnattsol, and Kristine’s husband, Michael Espenaes.  Quite a list, beyond all of this, you also have co-songwriting throughout the album with Tommy Olsson who was a part of Theatre of Tragedy with Kristine from 1997 through to 1999.

With a distinctive atmosphere, songs like “Our Immortal Day,” “No Makeup,” the powerful “Maligna,” “Love Me High,” and “Serenity” immediately strike you in all the right spots. From here, other tracks like “Gravity,” “In Your Blue Eyes,” and the title-track build a mood at a lovely steady pace as they move along. In-between these songs, there are also plenty more dark, melodic moments to dive into, and that includes beautiful covers of both “Pictured Within,” originally written/performed by the late Jon Lord of Deep Purple, as well as “True Colours,” forever associated with Cyndi Lauper.

Letting all of these factors sink in, as a collective piece, River of Diamonds is unquestionably the Gothic Rock/Metal record many fans have yearned to hear from liv Kristine for a very long time. The mood is right, the guitar tones are fantastic, and Kristine’s voice fits within it all flawlessly. If you are still not sold, think of Theatre of Tragedy at their peak with Kristine, but also think of bands like The Mission or Sisters of Mercy in terms of the texture River of Diamonds possesses. Simply put, River of Diamonds should not be overlooked and that is why Cryptic Rock gives it 5 out of 5 stars.  

Liv Kristine - River of Diamonds album artwork
Liv Kristine – River of Diamonds / Metalville Records (2023)

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