July 14, 2023

Flowing Tears - Jade (2000)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Gothic Metal
Label Number: 77273-2

© 2000 Century Media
Released in 2001 via Century Media, Jade is the first album by German dark/gothic metal band Flowing Tears. The band had actually already released two other full-length albums, but under a different name, “Flowing Tears & Withered Flowers”. The new moniker reflects the step-up in terms of marketing ambitions that Jade represented for the band, fresh of a new contract with powerful German label Century Media, with all the advantages (bigger recording and promotional possibilities) and disadvantages (mainstreaming of their sound) that this implies.

In truth, the sound of Jade is not dramatically different from what the band had been playing on their previous album Joy Parade (released in 1998), albeit the overall product is slicker and catchier, as one would expect from a gothic band in the Century Media’s roster. Flowing Tears play a peculiar brand of female-fronted gothic metal that incorporates influences from acoustic dark music and atmospheric doom metal. The label “female-fronted gothic metal” automatically triggers thoughts of Theatre of Tragedy, Tristania and similar “beauty and the beast” bands. But Flowing Tears sound nothing like these bands. There is no dualism between male growls and ethereal soprano-like vocals, no symphonic orchestrations, and no doom/death influences. Vocalist Stefanie Duchêne’s voice is deep and low-register, warm and sensual – nothing like Liv Kristine's (Theatre of Tragedy) or Vibeke Stene's (Tristania). The music is slow and depressive, with marked acoustic and atmospheric elements that bring to mind Anathema between Eternity and Alternative 4, albeit Flowing Tears are considerably less experimental than the British band. Similarities can also be found with The Gathering (Mandylion / Nighttime Birds period) and The 3rd and the Mortal (again, minus the experimental ambitions), as well as Type 0 Negative (listen to the vocal melodies on opening verse of “The One I Drowned”, which could have been lifted off Peter Steele’s songbook).

The twelve songs that are contained in Jade have a lean and simple structure, with the repetition of verse/bridge/chorus patterns only sporadically interrupted by the occasional middle-eight. Their duration rarely exceeds the 4 minutes. This marks a stark departure from the lengthier, more sprawling compositions of the band’s previous two albums, and undoubtedly contributes to making Jade a more easily accessible release than anything else the band had recorded up to this point. This is also facilitated by the copious injections of catchy, “mainstream” gothic metal tropes that one has come to expect from Century Media’s bands (think Darkseed, Lacuna Coil, or even late-period Sentenced). However, the album is at its best when it strikes a balance between the band’s early atmospheric doom/dark inclinations and their slicker gothic metal verve, like on the beautiful single “Swallow”, the folkish “Lovesong for a Dead Child” and the cadenced “The One I Drowned”. More easy-listening tracks, like “Godless”, “Sistersun”, and “Radio Heroine”, are instead too straightforward and banal, eventually resulting less interesting and with limited repeated-listening value.

Although this is not the type of music where one would expect to find strong displays of technical prowess (and in fact there are none), the performances of drummer Eric Hilt and vocalist Stefanie Duchêne deserve special praise. The drummer stands out thanks to the clever use of unusual rhythmical figures as well as his tasteful drum fills that break away from the beat, making the compositions sound more interesting and varied. Although Duchêne’s performance is nothing out of the ordinary, her distinctive voice - deep, morose and dark, with a touch of Tori Amos to it - catches the listener’s attention, if nothing else because it is so different from the genre’s stereotypes. Her singing style is also unusual, detached and dispassionate, almost grunge. Her voice is definitely the main highlight of the record.

Overall, Jade is a pleasant gothic metal album that, albeit not revolutionary or path-breaking, retains a distinctive own sound and identity. It manages to sound modern, catchy and slick without falling excessively into the clichés of mainstream gothic metal, mostly thanks to the injections of the atmospheric doom/dark influences that had characterized the band’s origins. Fans of bands like The Gathering, Anathema, Lacuna Coil and female-fronted gothic metal should find a lot to like on this one.

 tags: flowing tears, jade, 2000, flac,


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