August 4, 2020 Lord of the Lost – Swan Songs III (Album Review)
How many great bands are as prolific as the exceptional Lord of the Lost? Not many that we know of, and that’s why it’s so impressive that the Gothic Metal outfit is back just a year after delivering their 4CD mega best of, Till Death Us Do Part. A return to their Neoclassical grandeur, Swan Songs III—the latest installment in the beloved Swan Songs series—is set to arrive on Friday, August 7, 2020, via Napalm Records.
If you still get chills every time you witness the band’s performance of “Prison” from their Confession (Live in Christuskirche) DVD, you are not alone. Although, there’s been no shortage of inspired moments in their career since their founding in 2007, in Hamburg, Germany. With the release of six full-lengths—including 2010’s Fears, 2012’s Die Tomorrow, and 2018’s Thornstar—as well as live and acoustic LPs that flaunt their Neoclassical abilities, Lord of the Lost has continued to reimagine their sonic persona, all as they have consistently delivered quality material over the past 13 years. And while their latest is guaranteed to be no different, they’re already hard at work recording their next, all-new full-length which is slated for 2021 release. Does this band ever sleep?
It certainly does not seem like a lazy day will be on the calendar anytime soon for the members of Lord of the Lost—Chris Harms (Vocals, Violoncello, Semi-Acoustic Guitar), ℿ (Acoustic Guitar), Class Grenayde (Acoustic Bass), Niklas Kahl (Percussion), Gared Dirge (Grand Piano). Their eighth release of the past five years, Swan Songs III, takes the dark Metal group’s classically-attuned doppelganger to the next level in a beautifully-crafted 2CD collection. Produced by Frontman Harms, along with Corvin Bahn, the album will be available in a multitude of formats, including digital, 2CD Digipak, 2LP gatefold vinyl (containing Swan Songs III CD 1 only), limited edition 3CD packaging, and an astounding deluxe 7CD box set.
But to get back to the actual music, for the magical Swan Songs III, Harms and his fellow rockers are joined by a wonderfully talented ensemble featuring Bengt Jaeschke (acoustic guitar), Co-Producer 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 (percussion), and Henrik Petschull (percussion).
Unless you really like to mix things up, we open to CD1 which contains ten brand new tracks along with three additional surprises. Here, a simple piano note and Harms’ striking vocals open the entire collection with “A Splintered Mind.” A search for love when you are flawed, these intimate, personal confessionals ebb across the senses as the track builds into its full orchestration. A magnificently lush, layered ballad, it is guaranteed to earn a proud space at the upper echelon of Lord of the Lost’s oeuvre. The same can easily be said for “A One Ton Heart.” Part Edgar Allan Poe, part gothic romance, a veil of black lace undulates across the song’s gorgeously macabre prose.
As the new material continues, American Singer/Songwriter Joy Frost guests on “Dying On the Moon.” A perfect complement to Harms’ dangerously deep vocal performance, Frost’s sultry lines inject an emotive R&B finesse into the presentation, a song that lyrically explores finding peace and contentment. Meanwhile, there’s a Baroque boldness that marches into the magnificence of “Zunya.” One can almost envision courtiers flitting throughout a grand space as Lord of the Lost provides a soundtrack to the evening’s festivities, detailing for the partygoers a struggle with hope.
A bittersweet lament for a love lost, the sweeping cinematic soundscape of “Unfeel” (“I cannot unfeel what I feel for you”) far overpowers Harms’ poetry with its dusty, Spanish guitar influences. Riding high, the ensemble opens “Deathless” with their beautifully lilting orchestrations, setting the stage for a haunting vocal delivery alongside piano. A gothic love song (“You make me still feel pure on my dishonest days”) to last until the bitter end, to say that “Deathless” would fit perfectly on a vampiric Horror soundtrack would be an understatement.
Next, the emotional “Agape” allows its instrumentation to shine as mesmerizing guitar work and piano twine around Harms’ delivery leading to a moment that allows the singer’s violoncello skills to take the spotlight. But there’s no pause before they spiral headlong into “Hurt Again,” returning to a thicker sound that allows the entirety of the ensemble to fire on all cylinders. And while there’s a certain degree of masochism to the self-evolution in “Hurt Again,” one that uses pain as a catalyst for rediscovering oneself and finding love again, aren’t we all just slaves to our hearts?
As the new material begins to near its conclusion, acoustic guitar introduces the initially minimalist lullaby “Amber,” which builds into the expansive “We Were Young,” a track that features the Heaven Can Wait choir. Backing Harms’ with 70+ passionate voices, the collaboration produces ethereal results that magnificently display the power of music to unite us beyond generations. What follows includes a gift of silence, a “Joyless” alternate version, and an even bolder version of the epic “We Were Young.”
Throughout Disc 1 of Swan Songs III there’s a common theme of personal demons and the emotional battle to find love, of overcoming insurmountable, often self-created obstacles to find peace, contentment, and someone who understands. It shows Harms’ deeply candid mindset during the writing of the new material, and provides a possible window into what the next Lord of the Lost LP just might look like. All of this, and the tracks can also be easily imagined in standard Rock-n-Roll arrangements, with electric components that add further intricacies into their layers—but this band is ballsy enough to start with the ensemble orchestration.
For Disc 2, the quintet reimagines some of their recent hits off the Thornstar double LP, along with four older gems that represent 2011’s Antagony, 2012’s Die Tomorrow, and 2016’s Empyrean, respectively. This kicks off with a pair of to die for offerings: “Loreley” and “Morgana.” Providing an outstanding performance from Harms, the former is a stand-out in a collection of must-hear tracks. But not to be overlooked, “Black Halo” opens to stunningly poignant piano, and “Cut Me Out” receives an intimate focus on its emotional lyrical content. The four tracks display the might of Thornstar’s material in the ensemble setting, showing that Lord of the Lost really do passionately ponder all that they craft. (As if this was in question!)
Representing their older material, “In Silence” feels as though it was always meant to be this powerfully elegant. Similarly, the emotional content of “Seven Days of Anavrin” reaches a whole new threshold in its Neoclassical form. Then, they allow the percussion to absolutely shine in the ominous build into “My Heart Is Black,” another darkly cinematic inclusion. However, for this portion of the double set, they opt to end with the astounding 18-minute epic journey, “Letters To Home.”
Truly, what is there left to say? With Swan Songs III, Lord of the Lost continues to make rebirth their favorite artform. From fabulous storytelling to poignant prose, bold orchestration to sweeping cinematic feels, there’s not a single moment that isn’t flawless perfection. Although, let’s be honest: the album does require that you be a fan of Lord of the Lost’s symphonic side. If you are the one listener that is not, well, this is not the collection for you. For the rest of us, the inspired double disc is nothing short of magical. And this is why Cryptic Rock gives Swan Songs III 5 of 5 stars.