Review: LIV SIN – KaliYuga
Mighty Music (January 27th, 2023)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
I was first introduced to singer Liv Jagrell back in early 2008 when a friend played me the Sister Sin EP, ‘Smash The Silence’ which was sold independently by the band right before they signed with Victory Records to release their major label debut. I’ve followed their career since then, seeking out older albums and unreleased demos and was fortunate to see them live a few times. They broke up after touring for their album ‘Black Lotus’ and recently had a resurgence after their track ‘Fight Song’ found its way into the Netflix ‘Cobra Kai’ and HBOMAX ‘Peacemaker’ series.
In 2016, Liv started her own band, taking half the moniker of her old band to form LIV SIN in 2016. Since then, they have released two albums. 2017’s ‘Follow Me’ offered quite a shock the first time I heard it, and I was slightly disappointed. Liv seemed to have traded rock melody for metal brutality. A few songs I enjoyed but overall, I thought she was trying too hard with the down tuning and vocal delivery to go the Pantera/Testament route, which did not appeal to me. 2019’s ‘Burning Sermons’ was MUCH better, with a return to an anthemic feel while still retaining the heaviness that she sought out with the debut. That brings us to this new album, ‘KaliYuga’. I did not know what to expect. Would it be a progression from their last album or a return to the debut?
It turns out it’s a bit of both. While not as anthemic as the last album, there are songs that would have fit in place there. There are also tracks that showcase the vocal range of Liv, her classic powerful voice and her willingness to drop an octave and growl through some of the verses and choruses. The songs featuring these vocal changes are more reminiscent of their debut.
There are moments when the hybrid vocals work. An example would be the track ‘I Am The Storm’. Liv starts the song with quiet, wispy vocals in the verse before progressing to her lower register to scream out the chorus. A nice construct that ties into the theme of the track. Of all the tracks that benefit from this approach, my favorite is ‘D.E.R. (Destroy, Extinct, Repeat)’. Zak Tell (Clawfinger), Madeleine Liljestam (Eleine) and Wenderson D’Paula (Army Of Souls) appear as guests on the track and their combined vocals make for a powerful delivery. What I love about the track is how the first half has a thick, trudging feel to it and then has a rhythm change that sends the song into overdrive, with a faster pace that gets the heart racing and the head banging. The best song on this album to feature this type of approach. Outside of these two examples, I prefer the first half of the album over the second.
The second half is dominated by Liv pushing her lower register to its limits. She is too good of a singer to go that low. I would have preferred she tackled the songs with the register she is known for. It is certainly okay to experiment, but there’s too much Phil Anselmo-inspired gravel vocals utilized here. While her lower register is impressive, I do not feel she needs to resort to the growls as often as she does. Liv has stated in press releases that, “We definitely tried out a lot of new things, and I confess, I went a bit crazy with the vocals in certain parts”. I agree with her 100%. A little restraint would have made the songs stronger.
I found the tracks that did not feature Liv prolonging her gravel screams to be more suitable to me. My favourite song is Track 4’s ‘Forget My Name’. As a fan of Accept, if you ever want to hear what that band would sound like if it was female-fronted, then check this song out. The type of anthemic riff that resonates with me. The song does have an abrupt fade at the end but is otherwise perfect and exactly what I would want to hear from one of my favourite modern female singers. I would have preferred a few more songs in this vein.
Some other great tracks include ‘King of Fools’, with its vocable chants utilized in great background effects and in bridging verses and choruses together. A quick tempo track that I would have liked to have seen more of over the slower, thicker tones found throughout. ‘Antihero’ is another solid song that features some synth effects underlying the crunching guitars making for an interesting contrast of ethereal and aggression.
I’d be curious to see where her career progresses next. This album follows the unexpected exposure of her old band Sister Sin, who came to people’s attention when recent lockdowns led to lots of time to stream shows and their music being included in two hit series. It would be nice to continue with her current band as well as her previous band. With both bands sounding quite different, it is certainly possible. While I prefer the stylings of Sister Sin, LIV SIN is unapologetically down tuned modern metal that reflects where metal is at in 2022. All fans of Liv’s past works and modern heavy metal will find some great tracks here. Some will prefer certain tracks over others, but there’s something to be found for all interested.