Saturday, June 3, 2023

The Bloodline - Opium Hearts (2000)

Germany's long been central to the Gothic metal world (and adjacent styles like Industrial/EBM), but it's always been a double edged sword. Many of the artists are quite qualified and serious, capable of penning a couple good tracks at least, but they also come off as harbingers of the medium's most goofy aesthetics, often to the point of caricature. How many crazy contact lenses and colored faux-dreadlock extensions can we really stomach? There's got to be more to this corner of the 'dark music' spectrum than its narcissistic overreach...fuck, the Sisters or Mercy did it with only shades and leather. The Bloodline is another of many acts who took a crack at the Gothic/doom metal style back when groups like Theater of Tragedy or Crematory were established, but faded very quickly into obscurity...

And to their credit, the debut Opium Hearts is no joke. It's rough around the edges, and somewhat derivative of other German acts like Pyogenesis or the abovementioned Crematory, and that makes sense, since one half of the duo, Roman, was a bassist and songwriter for the former. Perhaps the material here is an attempt to bridge backwards from that group's experimentations with pop and indie rock, to the morose death/doom of something like Sweet X-Rated Nothings, but the difference is the more electronic percussion and industrial lite synths and effects which drive the array of chords and mournful metal leads. The vocals are largely focused on the grotesque guttural, though they will occasionally layer in some ethereal female vocals tastefully. This is definitely not your full-blown, overproduced EuroPop Goth metal written for an arena with seven or more musicians, loads of orchestration, but rather it's more subdued and sultry, at times comparable to Betray My Secrets but without the world music angle.

The biggest issue I take is that it's a little dull. Even when a catchier piece like "Opened Eyes Dream" is chugging along and then gallops into its minimalistic but effective bridge melody, you just start to expect some sort of climax that never arrives. The atmospherics and effects are decent and remind me of anything from lower tier 80s pop and New Age, but they lack the confidence to stand out once the melodic guitars and growls arrive. It's sad and serious, even when they go for a peppier mid pace tune like "Lost Souls in the Land of Delight", a CLEAR nod to the Sisters, but most of the tracks feel as if they're merely reaching the cusp of quality, and the album lacks the production and push to go all the way. Don't mistake me, this is better than I personally expected, and it's not musically or lyrically tacky before a few genre tropes, but I can understand why this might be ignored in place of other bands' more vivacious explorations of the niche.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]

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