Twelfth Of Never
Things That Were
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Twelfth Of Never is a quintet of Massachusetts based musicians, and their latest CD “Things That Were,” is their second release for Dark Symphonies records. Generally speaking, this is a good record, with a lot going on both musically and lyrically. But the consistency of this CD is somewhat of a mixed bag. The overall quality of the music is for the most part, pretty solid from beginning to end. However, as with most CDs, some songs are much stronger and more mature than others. To some extent, it seems as though Twelfth Of Never are still struggling to find their own sound – or at least, which path to follow. I hope that my review will help not only our readers to decide if they would be interested in checking this CD out, but I also hope to give the band some things to digest before they enter the studio for their third release.
First things first: there is without question a great deal of genuine personal grief at the heart of this release. The album is dedicated to the memory of Tara Harding Lee, a long time fan of the band who passed away last year. From what I can gather from the liner notes, principal songwriter Matthew Davis had become very close to Tara and when she passed away, this had an expectedly painful effect on him and the direction of his music. Apparently, she was an instrumental force for him to carry on his music and this entire opus is drenched with an existential sense of regret, longing, and pain. On a number of these tracks, Twelfth Of Never do a fantastic job lyrically exploring the conflicted emotions that we as humans are forced to face when it comes to our own fragile mortality. They do so in a very direct manner, without any elevated metaphors or clichés. “Open eyes / roll out of bed again / and go through the motions / awake and unconscious / look in the mirror / there I am again / feeling so empty / the grayest shade of sick.”
Musically speaking, Twelfth Of Never do a magnificent job blending deeply reverberated Darkwave and fluid guitar-centered Shoegaze styles, with well-placed excursions into darker riff-heavy Gothic Metal structures. Roger Lavallee, of Curtain Society fame, produced the album and perhaps he had a hand in directing the band into more Indie/Shoegaze type pastures. Robin Tinker performs the majority of the vocals, and her radiant angelic soprano provides a fragile and delicate beauty to the band’s starker musical backdrop. The dynamic between her soft lilting voice and the cavernous music will instantly strike listeners by its similarities to the latter years of Lycia, once Tara Van Flower began working with the band.
And my critique for Twelfth Of Never is similar to my light critiques of latter-day Lycia – often times, the female vocals are a bit too soft and, for a lack of a kinder word, whiney. Especially with the somewhat adolescent lyrics for “Bratty Girl.” “Oh poor dolly / lying on its back / the cold rain gently drizzles outside / the bags are ready, lunch is being packed.” The song is about a young girl struggling with feelings of abandonment and alienation I can only guess, and I understand that the lyrics were meant to capture a younger child’s melancholic spirit. But when all is said and done, it’s a bit too cutesy for my taste, and is a prime example of Twelfth Of Never’s occasionally dangerous flirtation with melodrama and sugarcoated Switchblade Symphony-esque fluff. Musically however, the song is profoundly moving. With its dramatic climax of dense power chords and weighty percussion, dizzying key shifts and swirling ambience, I literary get chills every time the song reaches its chorus. But when you read the lyrics with the music, the effect is somewhat diluted.
The bottom line here for this track and a handful of others is that musically, the band is very gifted and spot on when it comes to their delivery and the atmosphere they weave is truly convincing. But the lyrics and the vocals sometimes present a dramatic juxtaposition of maturity against the music. Robin sounds much more convincing when she employs deeper, sultrier tones as she does on later tracks like “Left Unsaid” and “Such Are Mirrors.”
While I applaud the band’s tasteful passages of metallic grandeur, the haunting riffs and understated crunch of the guitars throughout most of the disc are a welcome addition to the otherwise Darkwave/Ethereal tones. But I would caution the use of lead guitar solos, however melodic or moody they may be. “Left Unsaid” opens with a guitar solo straight out of Hair Metal Power Ballad past. One of my biggest gripes with contemporary bands masquerading under the Goth Metal tag is that most of them are merely churning out power ballads about death, and musically, they are stale and sappy and unforgivably corny. Twelfth Of Never’s work by no means falls into this category, but the brief passage in this song momentarily flirted with disaster. Message: cut the guitar solos – the rest of the song is quite fulfilling but started out somewhat shaky.
Twelfth Of Never’s strongest and most mature moments occur in the shuffling doom of “The Tiny Drawer.” A truly brilliant track with a plodding darkness, ensconced by fantastic vibrating arpeggios and pounding percussion. The guitars boil over into spidery riffs and dense foreboding power chords. The layers of Robin’s vocal harmonies are chilling and wonderfully affective. This is the direction I would like to hear Twelfth Of Never head. Not into a full blown Doom or Goth Metal style, but carrying the fusion of metallic inspired passages with the more ethereal Darkwave styles to a darker and more intense level. This song is a perfect start.
Equally impressive, thought not quite as bombastic is “Such Are Mirrors,” where Robin demonstrates a deeper more commanding alto voice when she speaks “And all the while I ask myself / why do we kill the things we love?” The song lumbers into a dirge like web of whirling watery guitars and finger picked acoustics, cascades of piano, and tribal percussion. A mature and solid example of stark romantic power.
“Two Seven” is Matthew’s song for Tara, and the absolute ache of pain that riddles his fragile voice as he delivers the song’s touching lyrics is difficult to bear. His vocal harmonies here are masterful, and the mood of the song is one of genuine power and one of contagious sadness. A point of comparison might be Soul Whirling Somewhere, one of the unsung heroes of Projekt Records. While on a few of the songs it sounds as if Twelfth Of Never are just adhering to the traditional dark sound of Goth’s varying genres, there is no doubt whatsoever that this song comes straight from the heart and as a result, it shows Twelfth Of Never at their absolute atmospheric best, and surely is an appropriate tribute to the band’s departed friend.
Ultimately, Twelfth Of Never provides an accessible and emotional blend of Goth, focusing more on atmosphere and mood than on club accessibility, which there is nothing at all wrong with. People do listen to music outside of clubs, and Twelfth Of Never showcase the more introspective aspects of Goth that are waning with each new Synth Pop or EBM influenced release that takes clubs by storm. The band hints of a great deal of promise, and I am truly anxious to hear where their muses lead them for their next release. I would recommend this disc without hesitation to fans of female led artists like Love Spirals Downwards, Switchblade Symphony, Claire Voyant, Hungry Lucy, The Gathering, and the like, but also to fans of darker guitar centered bands like Lycia, Mira, Gossamer, and Autumn.
Twelfth Of Never is:
Twelfth Of Never – Official Site: