Lake of Tears – Headstones

Forgotten Legends is an ongoing series where we look back on those extraordinary yet often overlooked albums that are essential to any serious metal collection. They can be of any format, released at any time. As always, a dynamic range measurement is provided for reference.

Alright, let’s say you’re a big fan of bands like Moonspell, Katatonia, and Type O Negative, and are looking to expand your already substantial gothic metal/doom repertoire. Furthermore, let’s also assume that you’ve built up a reputation as a veritable gothic metal/doom cognoscenti, but are now unbelievably finding yourself running out of albums to recommend. Have no fear, Lake of Tears’ Headstones is here.

Lake of Tears was founded in 1992 when vocalist/lead guitarist Daniel Brennare, rhythm guitarist Jonas Eriksson, and bassist Mikael Larsson decided to leave their death metal band and hook up with drummer Johan Oudhuis. They released their first demo as Lake of Tears in 1993 on cassette and immediately got signed by Black Mark Productions. Their full length debut came a year later with Greater Art, which though not revelatory by any stretch of the imagination showed a lot of potential, blending classic doom with some stoner rock all in a very palatable, albeit simplified package. But it is with their second record, 1995’s Headstones, that Lake of Tears really made a name for themselves.

Like its predecessor, Headstones is still a doom record through and through, with tracks like “Raven Land” and “Twilight” quickly establishing that fact in their slow, opening tempi and overall rhythmic girth. But with Headstones, the band eschews their debut rawness for a cleaner, more gothic rock approach, offering up mammoth sized hooks on top of an already well-established dark melodic core. Tracks like “Dream Demons” and “Sweetwater” are shining testaments to that fact, interchanging catchy as fuck riffage with a brooding sense of melody and some brilliantly incorporated synths. Note, when I say catchy as fuck riffage, I mean heroin grade material. It only takes just one listen to the bass line about a minute into “Raven Land” or the breakdown midway through opener “Foreign Road” to be physically addicted to this album.

And I would be bereft not to mention Brennare’s very Swedish sounding English vocals coupled with his simple, yet highly effective sense of verse that makes Headstones even more of a trip to listen to. Truth be told, the first time I heard them I did crack a smile given how goofy they are. But now I look forward to them, and even can’t wait to sing along when I get the opportunity (Note to self: Do not drive cross country with Alex. -Dave). Brennare clearly felt uncomfortable as a leading man on the Greater Art, but here he really comes into his own and it shows.

Headstones was recorded, mixed and produced at the Wavestation by Ulf Petterson and the band. It was released on CD in 1995 by Black Mark Productions in Germany and Victor in Japan. As far as I know, both are identical pressings so there is really no real reason to seek out the import unless you are diehard or collector. The album has been reissued by Black Mark at least once, with very little changes other than some liner note discrepancies. Unbelievably, Headstones is celebrating 20 years now without ever having a vinyl release, which is so strange to me given how much classic metal from the ’90s is being repressed these days. Hopefully, that changes one day but the fact is at DR8 the CD sounds great, and you should have zero reservations picking it up at your local record store.

Since Headstones, Lake of Tears have gone threw a whirlwind of changes on practically all fronts. Eriksson left the band and was replaced twice until the band finally settled on Magnus Sahlgren, who played on every subsequent record post 1999’s Forever Autumn up until their last release, 2011’s Illwill. During that time span though, Lake of Tears have released several fantastic albums, each more different than the next. Headstones’ follow-up, 1997’s A Crimson Cosmos, was a Pink Floyd-esque journey into psychedelia, while its follow-up, 1999’s Forever Autumn, was a very introspective record, subdued and heavily reliant on synth. Their releases in between their subsequent breakup post Autumn and then reunion a few years later see-sawed back between gothic metal, electronica, and even straight up death metal. But if you are about to embark on your Lake of Tears journey for the very first time, start with Headstones, since it is one of the best gothic metal albums ever recorded and without a doubt, a Forgotten Legend.

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