Vol. 4

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As card-carrying members of Finland's parallel pop-metal universe (home to unlikely success stories as varied as gothic pretty boys H.I.M. and those opera lovers Nightwish), Lullacry were never the most adventurous of bands to begin with, but as they've watched the above-cited bands from their milieu gain in commercial stature, their own albums have gravitated ever closer to the mainstream. The unimaginatively named Vol. 4 proves as much, bearing a set of energetic, guitar-driven, big-chorused, but utterly innocuous melodic rockers in "Love, Lust, Desire," "Stranger in You," and "I Want You," which appear to want nothing more than to play their cards safe. As well as rarely exceeding chart-mandated four-minute lengths, their lyrics are at best undistinguished, at worst clich├ęd, and their misleading presentation (pop music dressed down to look dangerous for wannabe rebellious teenagers) is about as transparent as Avril Lavigne's typical single. That's why perhaps it's the romantic ballad, "Heart Shaped Scars," which ultimately best defines these bizarre idiosyncrasies, as its delicate strains and unapologetically dreamy schmaltz resemble the Bangles at their lamest. (Let's see Lullacry try playing this at the next Milwaukee Metalfest!) Not surprisingly, comparatively tough, more metallic-minded cuts such as "Soul in Half," "Killing Time," and "King of Pain" are intentionally tucked back into the album's second half, where their added guitar muscle and lingering gothic minor keys will pose no danger of frightening away the teenage girl contingent. Consider at last the generally indistinctive presence of front-vixen Tanja (though as photogenic as the next Scandinavian siren, her merely capable, teasingly breathy, often irritatingly whinny delivery hardly sets her apart), and maybe Lullacry have no choice but to try and fit in by subtraction, not addition to the formula. And that about sums up Vol. 4's basic conundrum: in terms of fitting in with the reigning trends, it's an unqualified success, but it fails miserably when it comes to contributing anything new.

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