REVIEW: Libitina – “The Shadowline”

By Manda L. Earp

Chain Border

I have learned my lesson – a painful, mortifying lesson. And that lesson is this: anything that the RealOne Player on your computer labels with the genre “Goth Rock” is probably just crap pressed down into the shape of a CD. There is a conspiracy between shitty music and the RealOne Player system, and when I further develop my theory on this topic I will be glad to let you all know.

That being said, Libitina’s third release, The Shadowline, is something that any fan of the Goth Rock culture would find horrendously boring, unoriginal and musically inept. Using repetitive and droning techno-synthesized rhythms, and with vocals that are flat and colorless in tone, I’m personally surprised that Libitina has lasted long enough to actually have a third release. Recorded in London just last July, Libitina members Darren (guitar, programming), Jamie (bass, programming, vocals) and Phill (guitar, bass, programming, vocals) do not have what it takes to make an enchanting and interesting collection of songs that are suitable for public distribution.

However, every negative must have a positive somewhere and before I can mention any more negatives I should say that the silver lining of The Shadowline is found in the introductory track. Opening with a programmed wing-flapping noise, the tune creeps in hauntingly, picking up a foreboding synthesized echo along the way. As the song perseveres, it grows even darker, almost lurking towards you eerily and by the end of the one-minute track you find yourself wondering if, indeed, this album will be a gothic wonder, a surprise-per-minute menagerie of sound and style. Then track two begins to play, and the true hell begins.

Though the introduction is catchy, the failure of track two, entitled Dirt I Cannot Wash, lies in its’ inability to 1) display quality vocals and 2) compose quality lyrics. The singing is monotone and, quite frankly, painful to listen to. The sound is that of one trying entirely too hard to sing in a style that is not their own, and that forced harshness ruins the song (and, ultimately, the entire album). What’s worse is that the lyrics are trite and strained, painfully crammed syllables into a space completely too small to effectively contain them.

Shibboleth, The Shadowline’s fourth track, is another strong example of the lack of quality that Libitina provides for their listeners; it sounds exactly like every other song on the album and reads like a 14 year old’s angst-filled poetry that they are way too proud of having published on www.poetry.com. “I’ll bear the burden of guilt for the world/The pain and the blame for all that goes wrong” – a cliché set to the same beat and tone as their other “songs.”

By track number seven on this twelve-track CD, I was so insanely bored that I begged the gods for mercy. The same flat singing, the same forced lyrics, the same tune, over and over and over again – a weaker person would not have survived. By track nine, I was making to-do lists for the remainder of the month, packing for my upcoming trip to Jersey and polishing my boyfriend’s decorative, wall-mounted dagger to stab into my throbbing skull.

When Valediction, the eleventh track on the CD, rolled around, I lost my own ability to say anything original and insightful. I, too, starting speaking in elementary-style rhymes, and all 12 years of my classical music training fled from the room in sorrow and disgust. Although the robotic, metallic tones on Valediction provided something different from the rest of the album, and though the beat was quicker in tempo and almost dance-like, the damage had been done. And then, it was over.

Track twelve, entitled Vespers, is nearly an exact replication of the haunting first track, though it has an opening beat reminiscent of Chris de Burgh’s late-80’s hit Lady In Red. The last minute-and-a-half of the CD is tolerable and, dare I say, pleasurable; partially because it mirrors the creeping and foreboding elements of the first track, partially because it signifies the ending of an album that this entire nation could have been better off without.

I try not to be critical without reason. But the reasoning behind my harshness of Libitina’s work is excruciatingly clear: poor vocals, repetitive tones and grade-school lyrics make for a bad album. And therefore, without question, this is a bad album. If you want to find something to do for 55 minutes, you’d be better off doing your taxes or visiting your friendly neighborhood proctologist. But do not – and I strongly urge you again, DO NOT – listen to this CD.

Contact Information:
Libation Records
Post: PO Box 1829, Sheffield, S8 0WY, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0) 1227 379566
E-Mail: libitina@libitina.demon.co.uk
Web: www.libitina.co.uk

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