Review Summary: Symphonic metal for classical music and opera geeks...
Goth musicians are ugly. And when I mean ugly, I'm not just saying that Robert Smith of The Cure is ugly (well he is), but then you get into actual goth bands and you find all sorts of weird attires; everything from weird frilly lacy dresses and corsets, to weird leather outfits, to mesh shirts... well you get it, these people are a fashionable lot. Tilo Wolff, the guy who formed Lacrimosa some twenty years in some German-speaking area (I believe he lives in Switzerland now, as does his companion since 1994, Finnish-born Anne Nurmi), is a pretty ugly dude.
You have to wonder why this music is so beautiful then. Maybe in discordance, or even concordance, with the grandiose nature of fashion, the music on this album is equally grandiose. Opener "Am Ende Der Stille" features a few lines worth of Tilo's vocals, but the rest of it is a pure classical music movement; what is this, VNV Nation for lovers of Tchaikovsky and Wagner? This classical music theme returns a few more times during the rest of the record, as the album is set up like a play with three acts, and the fourteen minute track Sanctus is mostly an excercise in the backing orchestra playing beautiful music, until at the end some riffing drops in to conclude the song as the album's grand musical centrepiece.
Apart from that more classical nature, the rest of the album is centured around a bit more of a rock/metal vibe, but don't think you're getting any Beatlesisms here. If you thought Nightwish was bombastic with their full orchestra backing the music, get an earful of "Halt Mich", which feels like symphonic metal riffing posited over an odd 19th-century waltz-like progression. Tilo's emotional, dramatic voice, which almost seems to quaver and tremble and apt to pass out at any moment, just lend the song that extra dramatic edge; this would be the song you play to your friend when you want him/her/it to get into this band.
Most of the album is centered around German lyrics, but one song called "The Turning Point" is almost performed exclusively in English, and this also happens to be the only song Tilo does not sing on (Anne Nurmi provides some spoken Finnish sentences and English vocals instead). Here the metalisms take a back seat again to more classical music progressions, as her vocals softly billow over the dramatic and melodic backdrop that she and Tilo weave, together with the orchestra. This duality between the orchestra and the more contemporary influences, as well as the classical concept of the album (a three part act about lost love), is encapsulated perfectly in this track; every facet of the duo is used to the full to complete the dualistic nature of the album.
The best songs still remain the rockier tracks, which combine both Tilo and Anne with that classical music backdrop that seems to be present at all times (this sounds more like Grieg meets Rammstein than Hans Zimmer meets Metallica), such as "Dich Zu Toten Fiel Mich Schwer" and "Alleine Zu Zweit", as on the former Anne Nurmi channels Emilie Autumn, and the punishing guitar riffs even delve into squealing pinch harmonics. The latter features an amazing chorus that ranks among the best on this album. On these tracks the two sides of the band seem to integrate the best, as the more classical elements of the band an sich tend to be quite dull to listen to, but the rock movements lend most of this album a great edge (and of course the compositional work is fabulous and well-executed).
This just leaves the fact that goth musicians are ugly, and so is Tilo, but that shouldn't distract you from buying this album. It is as beautiful and passionate as the time goth women spend wearing their dresses, and it is quite an experience to listen to from start to finish. If you're into symphonic metal with some female vocal flourishes, a massive dose of classical music geekery and some industrial influences, this is the first thing you should pick up right now, even though this is an old album from 1999 and not everything Lacrimosa did by far actually sounds like this. And if not, you can just make fun of Tilo's hairdo.