The female-fronted sextet Lyriel is a band that incorporates many inspirations into their music so it is hard to define their style in a clear-cut way. Hailing from the Köln area, these Germans take influences from symphonic, folk, Celtic, and medieval styles to make their own blend of metal with an Old World twist. Performed by Jessica Thierjung (vocals), Linda Laukamp (cello, background vocals), Joon Laukamp (violin), Tim Sonnenstuhl (guitar), Oliver Thierjung (bass, background vocals), and Markus Fidorra (drums, percussion), their fifth full-length studio album, Skin and Bones, features 13 tracks that provide nearly an hour of music.
Numbers is their opening number (watch the music video below), with a moderately heavy intro incorporating a smattering of the country-Celtic strings as part of the beginning. It lays back, however, at the arrival of the first verse and bridge, building as it goes into the chorus. This song is a catchy-cliché of a song that relates a tumultuous relationship with issues of dishonesty, and it has its moments of delicacy vocally and instrumentally, as well as more hard-hitting and intense riffing, which help communicate the push and pull of the difficult relationship.
The second track, Falling Skies, is a slower, heavy song that is groove- and riff-driven that communicates the resolve related in the song. The verses have a more of a half-time feel, while the chorus has a more galloping beat. The violin and cello are featured during the instrumental breaks between the choruses and verses, and there are some symphonic accents throughout the piece to further emphasis the beat. The song remains fairly steady in its groove and delivery, with several repeated choruses that eventually conclude with a wispy trailoff of Jessica’s vocals as the definitive ending.
Next up is the titular song, Skin and Bones, which starts off energetically with a strong verse entering and keeping the pace going solidly through the chorus and the rest of the song. This song is very chorus-driven with its memorable melody and oft-repeated lines that emphasize the taunting nature of the lyrics. This song is powered by a chugging guitar line also supported by the bass and drums while the violin and cello take a more aggressive approach in their parts with strong bowing that dig in with the rest of the band.
Black and White starts off quite differently with sharply accented orchestral opening dominated largely by the strings, and then diminishes for the verses that feature lead vocalist Jessica as well as the inclusion of duet partner and guest singer Christian Alvestam (Solution .45, former Scar Symmetry), who provides both clean and growly vocals during the second part of the verses and bridges. The change between the clean female and male vocals as well as adding the dirty male vocals provide layering to the tension found in the song
The fifth song changes gears quite a bit, as it begins very classically with arpeggiated acoustic guitar, violin, and cello only. Days Had Just Begun is a beautiful ballad that showcases the softer side of Lyriel, with gentle vocals and more delicate instrumentation for the first third. The song adds the rest of the band in a balladic 6/8 lilt that makes it progressively heavier as the song continues, but it retains a different feel from the previous 4 tracks and is a nice addition to the tracklisting, ending with a heartfelt extended vocal holding on as the music underneath abruptly ends.
Your Eyes again features the beginning with an emphasis on the strings carrying the melody over the guitar’s power chords, laying the foundation as the first verse comes in. This song is moderately tempoed, and ebbs and flows throughout with the instrumentation and intensity, with tempered verses, minimalist instrumentation during the beginning of the bridges, and more driven choruses. We also hear a wider range of vocals with lower lows and higher highs than some of the other tracks. Though this track may not be groundbreaking, it has a solid foundation and execution, and is a safe song to have among the tracklist.
The seventh song is Dust to Dust, and has its beginnings in the more Celtic/Folk Metal sound that Lyriel has established itself for its sound with the 16th note reel-like entry with the violin over the rhythm instrumentation, which reprises in the choruses. Although this is a composition about loss, this song keeps an ironically upbeat sense to it, with the lively beat and pop-like melodies. About 3/4 through the song, there is a shift to vocals and singular guitar for musical emphasis with the simplicity, and then it segues back into the more lighthearted chorus before playing out.
Der Weg is the one song on the album sung solely in their native German, and talks about “The Way,” bound to someone by her heart, but wanting to be free and choose her own path. This is a moderate song in tempo, with mellower verses that increase in intensity into the driving chorus that is catchy, using the strings as bridges between the stanzas and countermelodies underneath the other melody lines. This song is groove-laden and the cadence of the German with its rhyming lyrics make it easy to follow along with even for non-German speakers.
The ninth song, Astray, is a huge divergence from the most of the album. I’m not sure it could even be classified as a ballad, but it seems more like an elegy as it is comprised only of Jessica’s vocals and Linda’s cello as the sole classical accompaniment. Its melody and structure remind me of the song Carol of the Birds, and showcases the softer and classical side of the band. As a classical lover myself, I appreciated this song, even though it is vastly different from the rest of the album, and as such, may not be the right cup of tea for other metalheads. However, I find it to be an intriguing piece that shows the band’s versatility and provides a musical break for the listener, speaking on a different kind of emotional level.
Worth the Fight begins with a pseudo-ominous beginning with the strings and arpeggiating guitar, which also reprises in between the choruses and verses. However, the drive of the verses and chorus themselves is moderate and solid with some syncopation that provides some variation in rhythm. There are also some nuances that give some extra layering to the vocal delivery and give it some extra interest along with the strong, confident delivery, especially during the choruses. Toward the end, the strings pick up speed and give the song, in conjunction with the drums and guitars, a cinematic push for a dramatic ending.
The eleventh track, Running in our Blood, is quite an aggressive song from the very beginning. This song starts out much stronger than some of the other tracks with a near-thrashy, powerful introduction. It scales back a little for the verses, though the lyrics don’t compromise the intensity of the song. It evens out during the chorus a bit, but the thrash-power style returns after the choruses lest one think the song may be going soft. After the bridge/interlude, the chorus reprises on a key change, which segues into a shredding guitar solo, followed by a brief a capella rendition of the first 2 lines of the chorus before the re-entry of the band with a strong ending. Even though this is not my most favorite track on the album, one cannot deny that it’s a fist-pumper.
Dream Within a Dream is a near opposite to its predecessor, opening with a solo piano introduction and the entry of wispy, delicate vocals. The strings are introduced after the first verse and chorus, and then the bass and drums are subtly introduced at the second verse and then continue to build as the ballad continues. With a brief return to the vocals and keys only before the last reprise of the chorus, the song continues to drive steadily to the end.
The final track on the album, Black and White (Second Skin Version) is a slightly varied rendition of the fourth track, featuring Jessica on solo lead vocals throughout the whole song, rather than the duet as on the original track. The only remaining appearance of Christian’s contribution in this version is the dirty vocals he performed by in the background underneath the cleanly sung vocals of the bridges by Jessica instead. Otherwise, the song remains the same and gives the listeners an alternative to hear the song as if it were a typical Lyriel version without the additional male vocals.
Lyriel‘s fifth offering Skin and Bones is a solid album with straightforward songs and a few nice variations that keep it engaging, but I’m not sure I would call it outstanding. Though I can’t really put my finger on it, it seems there is something missing that could have taken this album to the next level. One thing, for instance, as they identify themselves as having a stronger Celtic/Folk metal influence, I was hoping for more of that sound within their music, but found that particular style to be minimal at best on this album. That being said, this album still has a lot to offer. Though the songs generally have repetitive lyrical cycles, the tracks are not too belabored as they average an overall song length of 4.25 minutes, keeping them short and to the point. The lyrical focus of the album is primarily on relationships for the basis for their songs, so these pieces might connect with people who like to relate to the music based on interpersonal experiences they have had themselves or may discover that the music can be a voice for their feelings. Musically speaking, the members bring their own particular strengths to the table. Jessica‘s vocals are a formidable female-fronted presence with a strong delivery and are sung comfortably in the mid-range, which gives the band more of a Doro or Lita Ford-like industrial, yet not too gritty, sound rather than an operatic, symphonic metal sound. Oliver‘s bass and Markus‘ drums form a solid team that manage the pace of each song well, and they play often in tandem with each other. Tim‘s guitar is very rhythm driven and doesn’t rely on shredding solos and acrobatics to get his part across. He maintains a good foundation with his fellow rhythm players. On the other hand, Linda‘s cello and Joon‘s violin provide the flair to the music, sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly. The group explores both their heavy and lighter sides, which can appeal to a wide variety of listeners. For those who particularly appreciate female-fronted bands, Lyriel is definitely one to keep in mind and consider their latest offering with Skin and Bones and form your own conclusion.