LIVLØS – And Then There Were None


If you’re anything like this reviewer, you might overlook new albums from artists associated with the melodic death metal genre. All that extravagant guitar harmonising and formulaic growling washes over one’s head like the rhetoric from Britain’s current Chancellor of the Exchequer. The cynical voice in your brain asks, “What can we learn beyond the cliches and ideological platitudes?” But if you think Denmark’s LIVLØS are a generic cog in a ship that sailed long ago, you have another thing coming. And Then There Were None is dark and philosophical in its ruminations on the futility of human existence. It’s also a melodic death metal record with a nasty streak running through it like the cancerous cells that grow in your body and will one day be the death of you.

The way the title track starts with a split-second inhalation of breath from vocalist, Niklas Lykke, is a good indication of the mood on this LP. LIVLØS thrive on a filthy guitar tone and a sludgy studio mix that enhances – rather than diminishes – the quagmire of their heavy sound. The dual guitars deviate from their core rhythms like septic fluids detaching themselves from the body. You need a good set of headphones to appreciate the blustery audio panning of both axes as you blow your nose and sneeze throughout the shivering spectacle of ‘Mortal Severance’. Those Gojira verse riffs are muddy and malevolent, yet the music is more technical than you think once you scan beneath the surface with your imaginary Geiger counter. ‘Pallbearer’ is more impenetrable than Queen Margrethe II of Denmark’s inner circle – you want to insert yourself into this alien world for the novelty value, but the enticements bare no invitations. Maybe that’s the only negative thing you can say about LIVLØS. Songs like ‘Serpentine Supremacy’ and ‘Drenched in Turmoil’ attack you with an abundance of notes and reckless fills while the bombarding lyrical growls drain you of energy. Most death metal bands leave you with a bloody nose, but these Danes leave you sniffing and spluttering into your handkerchief. You want to huddle up in front of a log fire with your covers pulled up to your neck in the hope the fever might pass.

Yet, like the magic of creative writing, you cannot fault the ability of this band to transport you to a unique world that’s both tangible and mortal. The rotten death metal assault of ‘Seize the Night’ will make you shiver as much as the carnal barbarism of the lyrics: “Our innate fate/ Born and bred to die/ With no escape/ Grab life by the throat and seize the night.” This is not an isolated sentiment. The slow grind of closing track, ‘The Purest Black,’ could be an anthem for the nihilistic certainty of an atheist world view: “As you float in your own embrace/ You are left here alone to speculate/ Are we just a speck of meaningless soil?/ A microscopic atom in the big black void?” The brutal palm-muted downstrokes only add to your epiphany, yet the dirty Metallica licks and Carcass crunch at the end leave you wondering if you’re in heavy metal heaven or a mundane living hell.

Denmark already produced one of the finest death metal albums of 2021, with Baest’s Necro Sapiens sure to make a dent in the album of the year charts. LIVLØS fall just short of this accolade, but their audio approach deserves many plaudits, as does their ability to bring our belching earth to life through the promise of death. If only the last Ulcerate album could say the same…

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 22/10/2021

Record Label: Napalm Records

Standout tracks: Mortal Severance, Seize the Night, The Purest Black

Suggested Further Listening: Carcass – Torn Arteries (2021), Baest – Necro Sapiens (2021), Nixil – All Knots Untied (2021)