I don't know if it's a symptom of my excess passion for music or a tangible conjuration of empathy, but every time a band I admire so much seems to grind to a halt, my heart simply shatters. Not to grow all emo on you, but this appears to be exactly what has occurred with Sweden's Lifelover upon their fourth full-length. Whereas each prior album detailed a minute but wondrous evolution in sorrow and atmosphere, culminating in the surreal and beautiful Konkurs in 2009 (which I still listen to on a regular basis), the process seems to have decayed in the writing of Sjukdom. The fact that the title for this album is 'sickness' is perhaps all too telling of its contents, because there's certainly there's a pox upon the creative muse here, and ultimately this album is more of the same...but far less...
Taken at simply a compositional level, it is a near doppelganger of its predecessors, with the same sense for driving guitars, wailing and insane, tortured vocals, and outside elements like pianos that are used to add additional seasoning to what might otherwise be entirely too simple writing. This formula has worked miracles in the past, through Erotik and especially Konkurs, but here it seems to limp along without provoking much compelling or curious content, and songs like "Svart Galla" and "Resignation" would not have been out of place a few years ago, but for whatever reason, they just don't leave a lasting impression here. I'm not sure if it's the cleaner, bruising production or just the fact that the notes don't configure themselves into patterns that access my memory banks, but I felt lost, like a young lad waiting for his favorite parent to pick him up at school and only being sent his annoying cousin.
Sjukdom is not entirely barren of different ideas for Lifelover, but when one of them is to call a song "Homicidal Tendencies" (is that funny?), I must ask who kidnapped the band's muse to torture her on the basement level of some suburban apartment complex? This is basically a mediocre thrash riff with some wild vocals and electronic components. There's always been a substrata of humor to the band's style, but ouch. "Totus Anctus" is disposable groove metal which only picks up during the segues into clean guitars and narrative; "Karma" just disposable groove/death metal which the piano at the climax cannot rescue; "Becksvart Frustration" a vapid punkish rhythm which is simply not good enough to propel the froglike vocals riding it; "Instrumental Anthem" far too literal; and "Led by Misfortune" just sounds like a Pyogenesis outtake from 1995.
The good cuts here are thus sadly outnumbered. I enjoyed "Horans Hora", which is the longest on the album, elegant and doomed without any needless excess. "Nedvaknande" has perhaps the best single riff on the album, a longing construction with sexy, enthusiastic melodies behind the verse narration and random groans. "Bitterljuv Kakofoni" is also pretty good, a somber piece with samples and steady, syringe sucking drums, and "Expandera" is somewhat acceptable, with a fine level of sadness where the piano and guitar chords collide. But when compared to the great set of songs on the last full-length, even these moments of respite from the mediocre environs seem themselves a dash underwhelming. ( ) is hit or miss; often manifesting the same charisma I've enjoyed in years, but often becoming a near caricature of himself. The variation of the album is not a negative trait, but so few of the experiments towards a more pedestrian metallic territory pan out.
Sjukdom does not represent Suckdom, because there are enough ligaments conjoining its joints to create the illusion of quality, but it's the first hurdle I've yet heard in the band's career, and it's just not impressive. Hopefully they can shake these brambles out of their breeches soon and rise once more from refraction to revelation.
Verdict: Indifference [6.25/10] (the imaginary friend of everyone else)