I first became acquainted with Lifelover about a year ago with their album Konkurs — a promising listen that hinted at unique ideas, cross-genre pollination and other experimentation within the black metal framework. Equal parts Katatonia melancholy and suicidal black metal—the mix had great melodies, buzzing guitars and exasperated vocals that balanced well with subtle keyboard/piano flourishes—not entirely unlike recent albums from Shining (Swe). It made me view Konkurs as a potential stepping stone for the real magic that was sure to come on the next album So, when I heard word of their new record, and fourth album overall, I was very excited. However, the new record’s pros and cons leave me with mixed feelings and ultimately isn’t the “next level” experience I was hoping for.

One thing that jumped right out and slapped me in the face with Sjukdom (which means “disease” in English) was the horrible use and sound of the drum machine that is used throughout the album. It’s lifeless, cold, sterile and leaves a stain on the song that sounds like “demo” or “rehearsal tape” instead of a finished piece of work. It’s so noticeable I immediately went back to Konkurs to see if this was some mix up or change from what was on that album. I was surprised to hear that Konkurs used a drum machine almost exclusively as well – except that its sound, tone and the production doesn’t distract from the songs (obviously if it didn’t bother me to even notice they weren’t real drums, they were doing something right).

On a better note, the riffs are more aggressive on Sjukdom, almost thrashy at times, and they’re one of the elements on the album that has improved with better production. The approach should appeal to fans of Nachmystium, which is a good point of reference in general for this record. The vocals have a two-style delivery – the wail like an insane, lost banshee (I think this is the typical “suicidal black metal” approach to vocals, where to sound exasperated and certifiably crazy is the goal) and the spoken-word “deep introspection” style that fits the melancholy vibe – using their native Swedish.

If you could try to ignore the drum machine and focus on the music, it’s an enjoyable listen for fans of Shining, Nachmystium and Katatonia. I find when the band hunkers down into the mid-pace rhythm on this album, they’re performing at their strongest. Songs like “Expandera”, “Horans Hora” and “Nedvaknande” are great examples of plodding beats and riffs that could have been pulled from Katatonia‘s Tonight’s Decision – the latter of which being one of my favorite tracks from the album. If the band could get a session drummer for the album, or at least give the back bone of their material a more organic feel, it would surely match and strengthen their style. I guess when I weigh the pros and cons of this album, those improvements and setbacks ultimately leave more to be desired – much like my original assessment of previous album Konkurs – so there are definitely strong ideas. It’s not a bad album at all by any means, but one that might have me reaching for Shining or Bergraven first when I’m in the mood for this style of metal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Stacy Buchanan
February 25th, 2011


  1. Commented by: shaden

    amazing 5th release from this band,sounds nothing like the mentioned bands.

  2. Commented by: timmy

    Excellent review, Stacy! Strong points and good comparisons!

  3. Commented by: Rev

    I can see the comparison to Tonight’s Decision in the riffing department, but this sounds nothing like Nachtmystium. Great record, though.

  4. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    Great album.

    I think early Katatonia is probably a better reference point than Nachmystium. And 5 albums in, you’d think the band probably has exactly the drum sound they want [whether or not you like it is another story…].

  5. Commented by: Stacy B.

    Thanks for all the shared feedback!

    I should clarify: the Nachtmystium comparison was most notable in the arrangements and loud/quiet parts when I was referencing the guitar work – Nachtmystium and Lifelover both being acts that cross-pollinate black metal with other genres (post-rock, shoegaze, etc) and implement said approaches. It was intended as a point of reference, NOT that they necessarily sound like each other.

    I do like this record! But to summarize my review: I feel this was more of a lateral move for the band rather than a breakthrough or dismantling of their sound.

  6. Commented by: Erik Negakinu

    Interesting how we both experienced this album differently. To me, Lifelover incorporate a sound into their suicidal black metal that is very uncommon in the “scene” nowadays. They have been slowly developing a genre of their own. They actually sound like a gothic band from the eighties to me! And I don’t mean weepy, bombastic gothic like, for example, Deine Lakeien and London After Midnight. I mean the gritty, post-punk goth that bloomed in the UK more so than in Germany.

    Think the melancholic guitar leads from The Cure, the steady and hypnotic rhythm and vibe of Joy Division and most of all, especially because of the almost industrial drumcomputer, the sickness and grime of Alien Sex Fiend! Infused with modern, suicidal black metal’s vocals and bedroomriffs they combine the best of both worlds in my opinion.

    Talking about the vocals, did you notice how, apart from the spoken word and suicidal wailing, he incorporates this eerie whisper and low humming? And how he sometimes does all of these in the span of one sentence? This is one versatile vocalist if you ask me. Noteworthy, to say the least. His performance seems very sincere, genuinely emotional, desperate and lacks that almost comedic aspect I hear in bands like, for example, Silencer.

    Maybe it’s all about context with this one. “Sjukdom” is almost like a microcosm of 30 years of dark music. It needs to sink in, fester about and you’ll end up either loving it or hating it, as is with most genre-bending albums. As is with most classics? ;)

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