LUCYNINE – Amor Venenat

Rating: 2.5/5
Distributor: Inverse Records
Released: 2020
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Band Line-up:

Sergio Bertani – All instruments, vocals, and production.

  1. Family (feat. Grazia Migneco)
  2. Nine Eleven
  3. Vetyver 717 (feat. Gianna Coletti)
  4. Charlie’s Got Blue Eyes
  5. Things I’ll Never Know
  6. Apostasia
  7. White Roses
  8. Anthony Hopkins (feat. Dario Penne)
  9. Roma Blue
  10. Tutto il Male del Mondo (feat. Gianna Coletti)
  11. Everyone I Love Is Dead
  12. Heartectomy
  13. 200335310818

Recently, avantgarde heavy metal act LUCYNINE signed with Finnish label Inverse Records. Born in 2013 as a studio project of the talented multi-instrumentalist, singer, and producer Sergio Bertani, LUCYNINE is back after their initial EP Chronicles from Lari with an obscure opus titled Amor Venenat. The concept album featuring 13 tracks explores the darkest and most negative sides of love. It’s a journey between feelings, lust, suffering, anger, and death; a fairy tale with no happy ending.

Speaking about the album, Bertani says:

“This record features many layers, and it’s full of details and shades. Amor Venenat is the result of a very important personal and artistic journey that kept me busy for years. I think I put a lot of myself into these songs, I literally laid bare and this is my greatest satisfaction: the result is true, sincere, real, raw.”

When listening through the album, it’s easy to see Bertani is being completely open and honest; he’s wearing his dark heart on his sleeve and, just like the visually and thematically arresting album cover, it’s absolutely shocking at times. The sound is incredibly complex and mature, ranging from the raging black metal of opener ‘Family’ and ‘Heartectomy,’ to crust, punk to post-hardcore, and 80s darkwave, along with the doom and sludge slowdown of the album closer ‘200335310818.’ Amor Venenat features 4 famous Italian actors and dubbers to help Bertani tell his gothic tale: Grazia Migneco, Gianna Coletti, Claudia Lawrence (from the last edition of Italia’s Got Talent), and Dario Penne (Italian dubber of Anthony Hopkins in the Hannibal Lecter trilogy, Michael Caine and many more).

As I mentioned earlier this album is a veritable smorgasbord of musical styles, and this approach usually goes one of two ways. It will either be a sprawling and cohesive body of work for the listener to get lost in, or it’ll be an unfocused, messy, and sometimes jarring record that tries too much without a lot of it landing successfully. Amor Venenat sadly falls closer to the latter category than the former for me. Going from the doom-laden tempo, clean vocals, and guitars in ‘Everyone I Love Is Dead’ to the full-throttle black metal of ‘Heartectomy’ straight away is enough to give anybody whiplash, and not for the right reasons.

A handful of these songs are really excellent, but for me personally, they’re few and far between. The catchy marriage of industrial and nu-metal of ‘Nine Eleven’ works quite well, even throwing in a cheeky nod to The Beatles’ track ‘Day Tripper’ around the halfway mark, and ‘Everyone I Love Is Dead’ is a superb doom workout with plenty of Iommi-sized riffs. The bluesy strut of ‘White Roses’ is effective, even employing some tasteful harmonica as Bertani counts down each rose from seven until one remains. It’s a fantastic pairing of blues and gothic metal, as the genres go hand in hand relatively well, and aside from some solid heavy riffs here and there, that’s about where the positives end for me.

Sergio Bertani is clearly an incredibly versatile and talented musician; of that, there is no question. Unfortunately, Amor Venenat doesn’t do much for me. The absurd pop-punk attempt of ‘Charlie’s Got Blue Eyes’ doesn’t really land at all and ‘Things I’ll Never Know’ didn’t catch my attention at all. The ‘concept’ part of the album is all present and correct, using the Italian guest artists to provide some spoken-word sections to ramp up the tension throughout and perfectly portray the anger, loss, and resentment that can be felt on every song.

The production is really solid and each instrument can be heard clearly and they all sound chunky or somber where necessary. My main issue is there isn’t a lot here to keep me coming back and giving it a few more listens, due to the jarring nature of some of the musical decisions that had been made. If you have anything above a passing interest in goth rock and metal, there’s probably something here for you. When it’s good, it’s really good but sadly it struggles to shine through on an album that, to me, has a lot of filler. I had a hard time enjoying Amor Venenat as a whole, but I am looking forward to seeing what LUCYNINE does next. There are interesting elements across the album, but sadly not enough.

Review by Jack Merry