LIV SIN – Inverted EP

For thirteen years, Liv Sin was the frontwoman with Swedish hard rock/metal band Sister Sin. Armed with various old school riffs and a hard vocal style, the band shared stages with King Diamond and Slayer and drew comparisons with Children of Bodom and Skew Siskin. All things come to an end and after Sister Sin decided to call it a day, Liv embarked upon a solo career. Continuing to plough a classic Euro metal furrow, her first solo outing ‘Follow Me’ (released in 2017) was produced by Accept’s Stefan Kaufmann and featured guest performances from members of 69 Eyes and Destruction. With plenty of high octane riffery and a footing in a late 80s sound, the album had plenty of appeal for those who like Benedictum, Accept and even Sabaton.

As its title suggests, her 2018 EP ‘Inverted’ EP represents a much more low-key, moody artist. In her own words, the original plan “was to do a stripped down acoustic EP”, but the process took the band “somewhere else”. That somewhere else is quite removed from the bombast of ‘Follow Me’, but it’s a recording that long-time fans might find interesting.

Originally recorded by Danzig, the lead track ‘Devil’s Plaything’ is a track of two distinctly separate styles. At first, the arrangement works in an enjoyable neo-gothic fashion as Liv sings against a measured bass drum and sparse instrumentation. The presence of clean semi-acoustic guitar presenting an almost mandolin-like sound stokes up the spookiness, especially as Liv adopts a low register for this part of her performance. Moving into the meat of the track, things take on a rockier stance very much driven by the rhythm section and while it’s still stripped down, the band still pack a reasonable punch. Allowing her voice to have more of a belt, Sin comes closer to sounding like a Swedish Doro Pesch and while this doesn’t do anything especially remarkable, a very strong chorus and equally strong voice carry it to greatness in a very traditional fashion.

The EPs other songs will be familiar to fans as their full pelt electric equivalents were both highlights of the previous LP. ‘Killing Ourselves To Live’ takes great advantage of its atmospheric intro by ushering in piano and cello, again in a neo-gothic style, before using the piano and synths to allow the tune to gradually rise in volume and force. Added backing vocals lend a sense of grandiosity alongside a parpy synth, while Liv delivers a somewhat downbeat lyric and performance. Despite a great cello arrangement, this mighn’t actually interest to anyone who hasn’t heard the original version, but then, it’s unlikely many people will be checking out this EP without hearing the ‘Follow Me’ album first.

The release’s jewel is a reworking of ‘Black Souls’. In it’s earlier incarnation, this number was an aggressive power metal tour de force with Liv really pushing her voice to extremes, working with something between an extreme metal screech and a full roar. How would something so high speed and pneumatic work in a semi-acoustic recording? Extremely well, as it turns out – though not without a thorough re-imagining. The lyrics are pretty much all that remains. Musically, it’s completely different, with a twin guitar and bass settling into a bluesy shuffle that occasionally sounds like Alannah Myles’s much loved ‘Black Velvet’. The lead work has a cocky swagger; the bass underpins everything with a mechanised bounce. With a blues-rock backdrop, Liv steps up to the plate with a sultry performance…and after hearing her attacking each performance on ‘Follow Me’ without fear, it’s great to hear that she can do something soulful with just as much credibility. In this new neo-blues workout, the main hook of the track really impresses on a performance that’s powerful without a sledgehammer’s sense of power…and it’s a recording that should please old and new listeners alike. It’s genuinely great in its own right.

There are a couple of times on this EP where Liv’s voice sounds a little unsure – especially given the lack of opportunity to really go for it as she would so much of the time – but the overall professionalism of the performances win out, especially on the moments that lean more towards the bluesy side of things. ‘Inverted’ is an interesting experiment in the main, though, especially since ‘Follow Me’ wasn’t especially concerned with giving the songs breathing space. While it would be tempting to say it is a release for die-hard fans only, that would be doing the 2018 re-recording of ‘Black Souls’ a disservice – a disservice so big, it’s almost immeasurable. If anything can be gained from this EP, it’s that: the semi-acoustic ‘Black Souls’ should be heard by anyone and everyone with even the slightest interest in blues-based performances…and that alone makes this EP a recommended listen.

May 2018