Flowing Tears - Serpentine

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number: 8070-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 42:51:00

Flowing Tears (Photo: Volker Beushausen)Flowing Tears' Serpentine has a title track that sounds a bit like punchier version of a Madonna's track (the title of which I only vaguely recall, something like "La Isla Bonita"). And it is with that that I can give you a hint of what vocalist Stefanie Duchene sounds like, but add in a few hints of The Gathering's Anneke van Giersbergen in her (Anneke's) more livelier moments, and a bit like Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie And The Banshees. I have to admit here that though I may not like Madonna's material, I do like her voice, so my making that comparison isn't intended to have you running away screaming. Don't. Ditto with the Sioux comment, though I own but one single by the band. Flowing Tears are most definitely a metal band. Though having thought of Madonna, it's hard to shake that for me. At times, too, I thought of Pat Benatar. "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" will come to mind with "Portsall (Departure Song)," as sung by Annie Lennox (and yes, Annie did do a version); something in the initial phrasing and the use of organ. It's a mellow track, as that comparison implies - melancholy and dreamy with some nice guitar textures.

Anyway, the musicians backing Duchene play a mid-tempo, slightly crunchy brand of metal. MORM, I guess, if you will -- middle of the road metal. It's accessible, no endless chugging, no extraneous double-bassing, just some heaviness with nice melodies. They get a little "chuggier" in "Breach," however. Throughout the album keyboards tinkle away in the background, like glitter shimmering through the air. They could have been brought up in the mix a little more, but sometimes that creates a very odd musical space, which happens somewhat on both "Serpentine" and "Merlin". I say "musicians backing," but, of course, this is a band and so really I should speak of them in terms of a whole. Benjamin Buss is on guitars and programming, Stefan Gemballa on drums, and Frédéric Legny on bass. The musical element is as attractive as the vocals. Most often, the band create a wall of sound against which Duchene's melodic vocals play against, breaking the surface for their solo spots or when Buss lets an interesting sound effect come to the fore. There is a bit of sameyness in some of the tracks, in terms of the music, differentiated by Duchene's delivery -- that is, there are some similarities between "Serpentine" and "The Marching Sane." Not so much so that you'd think a cookie cutter was used to arrange the music, but just hints... A track that is little more than "wall of sound" is the darker "Breach," which makes the band's presence a little stronger as well (The band note on their website that their next album will have a harder edged feel). "Breach" concludes with lots of booming drumming from Gemballa, while Buss makes his guitar shriek in the background. The band rock out again with "The Carnage People."

An element in the instrumental "Intro" (which opens the album, naturally) echoes the aquatic metaphor of the track that follows ("Starfish Ride") in that it sounds like the blip of sonar; it also has the feel of a death knell being sounded. The very same effect, actually, is repeated in "Starfish Ride," which is a dark piece even if Duchene's delivery is light and lilting. "Serpentine," the title track, is catchy, rocking piece. "Children Of Sun" that follows could easily be a Pat Benatar piece (circa Tropico and "We Belong"). "Merlin," which begins with what sounds like laughing children and a music box playing, doesn't not seem to be about the Merlin of Arthurian Legend at all. Given the aquatic theme used throughout the album, and in the lyrics here, Merlin must have some correlation with that (i.e., "mer," as in mermaid, merman [Ethel? -ed.]) Here the instrumentation takes the lead, rolling drums from Gemballa being the dominant instrument. This aided by Duchene's whispered delivery.

I very much enjoyed listening to this album even if I really couldn't figure out what each song was really about. It doesn't matter, however, because sung it just seems to make sense on some abstract level. It's dark album lyrically, that much one can get as we get some depressing images and phrases that could be referring to suicide ("Portsall" for example). There isn't much of a pause between tracks and this only adds to feeling that the album is over too soon. While the title track stands out for me personally, that being the track I had listened to as an MP3 from the Century Media site, it's otherwise hard to pick out a track that stands out. Not because none do, but because all of them do. I'm digging every single track - and every track could easily be a single. Yeh, there was time when US radio would touch this, when they could play this along side Benatar and Heart, for example.

Serpentine is an attractive album, and one that I think all but the most hard core of metal fans will dig.

Intro (1:14) / Starfish Ride (For A Million Dollar Handshake) (4:20) / Serpentine (3:52) / Children Of The Sun (4:01) / The Marching Sane (3:17) / Breach (5:24) / Portsall (Departure Song) (3:13) / Justine (3:41) / The Carnage People (3:01) / Merlin (3:24) / Cupid Of The Carrion Kind (3:33) / For Tonight (3:51)

Stefanie Duchene - vocals
Benjamin Buss - guitars and programming
Frédéric Legny - bass
Stefan Gemballa - drums

Flowing Tears & Withered Flowers - Swansongs (OOP) (1996)
Flowering Tears & Withered Flowers - Joy Parade (OOP) (1998)
Swallow (ep, OOP) (1999)
Jade (2000)
Serpentine (2002)
Razorbliss (2004)
Invanity (2007)
Thy Kingdom Come (2008)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: November 17th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.flowingtears.de
Hits: 578
Language: english


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