Watching Norwegian lung-buster and elegant gothic-loving creative force Liv Kristine progress and evolve throughout her career is like observing the very slow opening of a beautiful dark flower; as the petals spring to life capturing its unique shape and form and wearing the many textures such an example of nature can truly behold. Back in 1995 for example the vocalist was an integral part of Norwegian gothic metal merchants Theatre of Tragedy as they unveiled their self-titled debut album, and here she is today juggling both a solo career and her work with Leaves’ Eyes.
After a series of guest appearances with Atrocity and others amongst several studio outings with Theatre of Tragedy, things abruptly died in 2002 after the release of Musique Assembly. According to the singer, ‘musical differences’ was the reason for the removal of Kristine as the front-woman; an email provided the sting in the tail with the heart-wrenching message contained within.
Incorporating members from the band Atrocity, Leaves’ Eyes arose from the ashes to soar up high with musical creativity and Kristine at the helm. They continue to record and celebrated the release of their fifth studio album last year called Symphonies of the Night. In conjunction with Leaves’ Eyes activities Kristine continues to sculpt new music with her solo output, and has been doing so since 1998 when she unleashed her debut solo album Deus Ex Machina.
“All my solo albums are different, all productions are exactly how I wanted them; all of them are me – 100%. I have followed my artistic heart and creative path 100%… that feels good and safe with my audience on my side.” Kristine is calm and content as she explains her thoughts and reflections on the earlier moments of her solo career.
On Deus Ex Machina you’ll hear samples from all fabrics of her expression whether it be haunting gothic overtures in Requiem or the more pop-fused In the Heart of Juliet. Without overlooking her collaboration with Nick Holmes from the mighty gothic rock legends Paradise Lost on the track 3am, the debut sets out her first official steps into the world as a solo artist. “Nick is a lovely guy! I was blown away – I used to be a huge fan of Paradise Lost, and some years later, we even toured together.”
Why does she feel the need to carve out a solo career when things are going from strength to strength with Leaves’ Eyes anyway? “I need to spread my wings! I have a hyper-active artistic mind, my team-mates keep telling me. There’s always something going on inside my head… Or ears… And it has been like this since I was a toddler.” After a pause she adds “Well, I would call this luck, I am very lucky to have been ‘blessed’ or genetically equipped with a superb, perfect hearing and control over my vocal chords.”
The singer then finds more to say on the subject of her solo career bordering on being defensive in justifying her pursuit, but pulling back sufficiently enough for it to come across as an extension of her explanation. “Moreover, I have fans, friends and a family who support me, back me up; believe in my artistic work and evolution. This fills me with gratefulness! In 1998 as my first solo album Deus ex Machina was released a dream came true for me. Since then it has been five solo albums and more will follow, I promise you that.”
With the curious attraction to gothic pop-culture sounds and sensibilities seemingly natural to her musical creativity weaving in and out of her songs and approach, what does ‘Gothic’ mean to her? “Gothic is to me the study of ‘the darker’ side in us human beings; in our surroundings, in style and art. Actually the front cover of the album (Vervain) reveals a lot. The artwork was made and the pictures were taken by my longtime friend and colleague Stefan Heilemann.”
Kristine barely pauses for breath. “The black and white front cover images the two sides of any human being, because we all have at least two faces. In my lyrics for Vervain I am fascinated by light and darkness. Inside me are both, light and darkness. Like Pratchett’s words “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.””
There is a moment of lingering silence before it feels appropriate to shatter it with questions about her latest studio album Vervain. “Vervain is my fifth solo album. I see it as the logical step after Libertine, while Enter My Religion and Skintight were more oriented to New Age/Pop. Vervain is much darker, heavier and more doom-based than the lighter but very emotional just like Libertine. I am definitely going back to the roots which also include my times with Theatre of Tragedy.”
A new energy invests itself as Kristine explains further. “Moreover, don’t forget the fact that Black Sabbath and Ozzy was the music I grew up with. I just enjoy letting in all my experience and good moments in a retrospective but also creative light. It feels just great to release Vervain at this point of my career!”
Questions then poked Kristine about the finer details of this new studio album. “For the production I would say we needed about a year. It went really smoothly. It was Tosso (Thorsten Bauer – guitar player of leaves’ Eyes) who mainly composed it, together with Alex (Alexander Krull – Kristine’s husband), who also produced it at our own Mastersound Studio. We are such a great team and Alex and Tosso know my abilities and goals. When I told both of them that I had in mind to write compositions based on my ‘earlier’ days, they loved it! Sometimes I think the two of them can read my mind!”
After a soft smile, Kristine has more insight to share regarding the latest dark creation to add to her growing selection of solo albums. “Vervain is a holy herb with purple or white flowers on delicate spikes. It is often associated with divine and other supernatural forces. It was called ‘Tears of Isis’ in ancient Egypt and is mentioned in William Faulkner’s short story An Odour of Verbena. In real life it’s nearly scentless. I chose this title because I see love, which is the ‘red line’ in my lyrics on this album, as a divine feeling and power. Love is divine – I like to associate it with vervain.”
Picking up on the theme of love, she points out her own observations. “We all know, though, that love can be both wonderful as well as it can hurt you. I enjoy turning the coin, observing the opposite side of feelings, happenings and things in my lyrics.”
Skipping back to the subject of the herb and her thoughts on it, Kristine says “This herb is also seen as a vampire’s most well-known weakness, because physical contact will burn them – become feverish and weak. Yes, this is what love sometimes does to you… It burns like hell.”
Noting the presence on a couple of tracks within the fabric of Vervain involved more collaboration, it was totally appropriate to enquire further. “These collaborations were just amazing! After recording my own vocals I thought my perfect duet partner on Love Decay is Michelle Darkness – our long-time friend! His voice is just incredible and absolutely perfect for this song. It’s always a pleasure working with Michelle. I think End of Green, his own band, is an excellent band, by the way.”
Regarding the other impressive vocal contribution from Doro Pesch (Stronghold of Angels) she has this to say – “Doro was here at Mastersound Studio recording this duet a while ago.” Kristine then elaborates. “She always gives her maximum! I have worked with her on stage and in the studio. She is always hard-working and gives everything for her fans. She is amazing, first class, an incredible singer.”
So what inspired Kristine to become the well-respected vocal talent she is today? “I always knew it; an inner call. I’ve always been singing. No education. I can just underline that creativity and passion towards music is the force behind my artistic work, as well as endless thankfulness towards my audience and fans.”
Knowing her honesty and sincerity have been at the forefront during the interview, what would she say when asked about what makes her tick? What ingredients make up the Liv Kristine fans know and respect? “I am kind of living a dream, music is my life. Apart from my family, it is the most important thing in my life. I need to move a lot, I love sports and outside activities. I love long-distance running, swimming, yoga, skiing whenever I am able to visit my family in Norway; I need nature, vegetarian/vegan cooking, and most of all I gather strength when I spend time with my family, at our beautiful home, in pure nature or for example spending an afternoon in the sauna.”
As if to summarize her thoughts on who she is, Kristine adds “The basic behind all this is to stay healthy in mind and body and to keep a good balance between business and privacy. I focus a lot on this, and I feel rooted with what I am doing, with nature and with living this very moment.”
Taking a moment to digest what she has achieved to this point and pondering on whether there are other things she still hopes and aspires to reach, Kristine says “I will tell the universe now – to sing and tour with Ozzy, Black Sabbath, or touring with Doro. To sing a duet with Kate Bush; to play in Iceland, New Zealand, Japan and a special Viking show by the fjord, Hafrsfjord; where I grew up in Norway.”
Whether you have discovered the talent which is Liv Kristine through her previous exploits with Theatre of Tragedy, Leaves’ Eyes or her earlier solo albums, there is no denying that her latest studio album Vervain carries a weighty dose of gothic texture and quality. For those moods of self-reflection or the magnetic draw of darkness to your bosom, this latest outing will slip through the veins like a welcome poison. Tread carefully though as with the herb vervain and the powerful emotion of love, it might burn like hell.