We Shall Remain

Atomic Fire
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Never Forget
02. Stand By The Flame
03. We Are Legion
04. Promise Of Apocalypse
05. Blood In Their Eyes
06. Vemod
07. Through The Mist
08. Suffering
09. War Das Alles
10. We Shall Remain

An increasingly big deal in their native Sweden and beyond, ELEINE have built a reputation upon the simple notion that symphonic metal doesn't have to be all fantasy, fairies and glossy pomp. "We Shall Remain" is the band's fourth album, and it's their heaviest yet: an explosive, balls-out assault that, courtesy of frontwoman Madeleine Liljestam, just happens to be as brutal as any melo-death record, and as dark as midnight on a moonless night (to quote Agent Dale Cooper). If there are any wizards or fairies lurking in the Swedes' thematic hinterland, they are more likely to slit your throat than sprinkle stardust.

The key to ELEINE's grimly gothic but defiantly melodic songs lies in the contrast between Rikard Ekberg's crushing guitar tones and monstrous riffs, and Liljestam's crystal-clear, eerily disarming vocals. Opener "Never Forget" sums up their formula, but "We Shall Remain" offers a purposefully evolved version of the sound that defined the band's first three records. Here, the orchestrations and layered depths that are de rigueur in modern symphonic metal are mere adjuncts to the ferocious aggression and overwhelming weight of ELEINE's streamlined assault, and while Liljestam is a reliably elegant and melodically refined mouthpiece, her band can hardly fail to stand apart from the pack.

"Stand By The Flame" is a ready-made anthem with a righteously catchy chorus, but its soul is sworn to the black, and its impact is more destructive than enchanting. Similarly, "We Are Legion" is laden with hooks and moments of classic metal bravado, but with strong undercurrents of infernal extremity. That combination informs everything here, and marks ELEINE out as a fiercely individual force, as comfortable with neck-threatening bursts of double-kick and serrated-edge riffing as they are with theatrical melodrama.

Another reason to embrace "We Shall Remain" in its bullish entirety is that it eschews the usual symphonic excesses in favor of a supremely punchy and direct approach. Ten songs, 37 minutes, no messing around: if only more bands knew how to focus like this. ELEINE may not be reinventing the wheel, but songs like "Blood In Their Eyes" and "Promise Of Apocalypse" seldom cling to symphonic cliches. Instead, with Ekberg's gritty growls as an additional threat, they are exploring the darker outer limits of gothic heaviness with a huge amount of style. When ELEINE do venture into more overtly accessible territory, as on the tense but gorgeous "War Das Alles", they never lose an ounce of power. The result is an album that casually defies the norm, while also making much of the competition sound lightweight and lacking in oomph. At their best, on haunting heavy hitter "Through The Mist" and the dastardly dynamics of the closing title track, ELEINE transcend all the obvious comparisons through sheer force of personality. A veritable post-millennial Beauty and the Beast for the crestfallen damned, then. Excellent work.

Author: Dom Lawson
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