Review Summary: Outliers of the Dark Times, Part 1
There are a few albums that didn’t make the cut for my Dark Times of Gothic/Symphonic Metal series. It could be because they weren’t released at the right time or because it’s debate-able if they even count as gothic/symphonic metal. But they are still worth reviewing, positively or negatively, because there’s a lot to say about them. And today, we have what is probably the first flop in gothic metal.
Yes, it’s time to examine The Sins of Thy Beloved’s second album from 2000, which was the last they ever made and tends to get the worst scores on every music-rating site. Let’s see what it is about this album that people dislike so much.
“Perpetual Desolation” begins with the doomy riffs, cold violins, raspy growls and ethereal vocals of “The Flame of Wrath”, nothing too out of the ordinary for this band and genre. At least, this album wasn’t badly received because of a radical change in style. For the most part, the first song is a perfectly serviceable gothic metal track. I’m kind of enjoying it… and then there’s that last part where Anita Auglend does those weird laughing-crying sounds, and it’s so sudden you don’t know why it’s there, if you don’t mind it or you find it absolutely obnoxious.
Your enjoyment of this album depends on whether or not you can stand her often questionable vocal performance. That’s especially true in the title track, where she re-uses that weird whine of a voice, and on “Partial Insanity”, where she has a whole monologue of that, followed by distorted vocals and eerie echoes on the instruments. It’s a truly, gloriously bizarre track.
That’s not to say there is nothing good on the album. “Pandemonium” is one of the heaviest tracks, with dark vocals that could come from a black metal album, and eerie singing from Anita. It has a truly gloomy feeling. “Forever” has a very nice violin melody, a catchy chorus and a pretty good performance for all three vocalists involved. It also has some weird industrial distorted sounds, and I can’t tell if I like it or not. That’s kind of a running theme through the album. Some ideas are so random I don’t know what to think about them. I don’t know if they were going for something more experimental, and I don’t know if it works, but it creates the kind of album you’ll never forget, something you’ll keep wondering about.
If only they had stuck to that weird sound. After “Nebula Queen”, a nice but typical track, the album becomes, well, a completely average and typical 90s gothic metal album. I hear these violins, doom riffs, raspy growls and ghostly sort of operatic vocals and I keep expecting the album to just turn into “Widow’s Weed” or “Beyond the Veil”, but it never really reaches that level. It’s too repetitive and bland for that. I guess another reason this album flopped is that it comes off as an inferior copy of Tristania. This must be the album that proved that although a lot of great things can be done with gothic metal, it can also get very formulaic and repetitive.
Well, I would be sorry to miss another reason why people hate this album: the cover of Metallica’s “The Thing That Should Not Be”, done in a gothic/doom metal style. Some would be offended by that on principle. I personally liked how they really adapted the song to their style, and I think it brings some much-needed creativity to this often boring album.
This was the definition of a mixed bag. There are two wildly different halves to this album. The first one is strange and misguided, but with some parts that I like. For its weirdness alone, it deserves a listen. But the second one is completely boring and formulaic, although it still has some good parts, and the Metallica cover. The problem isn’t that this album doesn’t good, but rather that it makes a lot of choices some people wouldn’t be on board with, and when it’s too scared to get experimental, it becomes a real chore to get through. This is why it was so badly received. What do I personally think of it? Well, it’s bad in a very different way from the albums I reviewed in the Dark Times series. For its confusing sound alone, and because it’s still pretty solid, like most of The Sins of Thy Beloved’s music, I’d still recommend it to any curious listener.