I first had the pleasure of hearing LIFELOVER back in 2006, when a friend of Kim Carlsson (HYPOTHERMIA, later revealed to be the vocalist of LIFELOVER) sent me a copy of their freshly released debut "Pulver". Upon my first listen I was astounded by how special this mix of depressive pop (in the vein of KENT and JOY DIVISION) and Black Metal sounded. As time progressed, the masses quickly grew aware of this young band, and when their third album "Konkurs" was released last year, LIFELOVER had almost become a household name. This new-found and well-deserved attention resulted in a record-deal with Osmose Productions, and this renowned label recently decided to re-release the now sought-after debut.
Taking a cue from the criminally underrated Norwegian band JOYLESS (and their predecessor FORGOTTEN WOODS), LIFELOVER combines upbeat melodies with agonized vocals and a pitch-black atmosphere. With lyrical themes focusing on isolation, drugs, sex, and love, "Pulver" is like a journey through the mind of a manic depressive individual, skipping from carelessly jolly to utterly despondent in the bat of an eye. This is pushed even further by the frequent use of audio samples taken from Swedish childrens television, painting an image of deranged loss of innocence and hopelessness. On this album, vocal duties were shared between four people, adding yet another layer of schizophrenia to this cocktail of madness.
The music of LIFELOVER is in itself a paradox. The melodies are catchy enough to make you want to dance (for anyone curious about this, be sure to check out their live-performance on YouTube), yet it leaves you cold and numb. The lyrics are a chapter of themselves, telling stories (in Swedish) of the feelings of isolation and total resignation that can arise from life in a crowded city. There are spoken word sections that sets an eerie mood, before the singing turns into chilling screams and painful cries, but unfortunately the mix leaves much to be desired. In fact, the rather poor and muddy production is my only gripe with "Pulver", and it's a shame that Osmose didn't treat it to a proper re-mixing.
Three years after the release of "Pulver", the impact it made upon the Black Metal scene is already quite visible, even to a degree where LIFELOVER has become a popular band to hate. Now the so-called "depressive Black Metal"-scene is flourishing, and I can name numerous bands that are directly ripping off this album. This evolution is rather humorous, seeing as the brilliantly zany closing track "En Sång Om Dig" ("A Song About You") deals with the exact fanbase the band has later spawned, with the lyrics exclaiming "You turned to the extreme/Now you're suddenly deep and unique/But when death knocks on your door/You realize that you're still your old self. Until the day you die, you will always be shit". Don't let the hype scare you away though, "Pulver" remains a solid start for a band that is destined to go far, and this re-release should be a welcome treat for everyone waiting for the follow-up to 2008's excellent "Konkurs".
(Online September 16, 2009)