The skinny: Dense atmospheres with a banshee wail.
The review proper: Yeah, I like it a lot. So beware, a gushing follows after the jump.
Let’s be honest for a moment: I’m really in love with this type of music, so what follows is more of a “hyping up” than a review. I’ve honestly tried to be critical of this album but I’m failing right now to be unbiased. I loved it. Take this as a warning (or a massive grain of salt to take away the bad taste this rant may leave).
With that said, Violet Cries, the new album by Esben and the Witch, is pretty good. Sporting two reworked songs (now with more shoegaze) from their EP, 33, Violet Cries is one nifty album. A little hard to get into, but more about that later.
The dreamy atmosphere / epic breakdown formula from 33 is alive and kicking. ‘Marching song’ is a proper tour-de-force and a good way to introduce yourself into the sonic landscapes that Esben and the Witch peddles unto the unsuspecting masses. It’s one of the reworked ones, too, but it’s a great transformation. Also, it’s a good change of pace after the creepy atmosphere from the unnerving album opener, ‘Argyria’.
‘Marine fields glow’ continues to go for a creepy approach. A droning guitar and a haunting wailing, almost like a banshee. This does feel almost Gothic, like the preamble to the dark passage that is ‘Light streams’, a slow dirge (in a good way) that skedaddles between a Vespers pray and the cacophony of lost souls.
An odd pairing follows. ‘Hexagons IV’ is again slower in execution, but still punchy, specially towards the end. It sure is a slow song, but the threat is there. Like quicksand. Equally as aggressive is ‘Chorea’, which sports the best instrumental break of the whole album. More, please? I’m fond of this type of soundscapes.
Strangely enough, ‘Warpath’ (the song you hopefully clicked to stream while reading this) is maybe the easiest song to get into, but which misses the more stranger bits of the album. You could argue that it’s the best stepping stone for the Violet Cries. And the guitar tone is lovely.
‘Battlecry/Mimicry’ fades in from ‘Warpath’ and it’s a cool little segue, sort of a “fog of war” situation going in it. It’s just getting you started for the reworked version of ‘Eumenides’ (originally in 33), with its bass heavy bits and unnerving noise orchestrations. It sounded like a nightmare in 33, the one you usually do remember for a while. It’s even better now. And when you wake up from said nightmare, you got ‘Swans’ and its tremolo heavy guitar jangling to get you through the rest of the day (60% chance of rain).
If I should sum up the album in one word, it would be ‘dense’ (in the Physics context). It’s as atmospheric as a Richard Matheson novel, oozing with a sense of dread, some longing in the vocal part and a lot of lucid dreaming on the music parts. It will take a few tries to get into it, that is a certainty.
To the risk of sounding like an elitist dancing to the tune of “ I have to be honest” I’ll say that Violet Cries is not for everyone. It’s a hard to digest album, maybe you could even have to be in the mood for it, but if you are up for some real atmospheric music that left a genre two songs ago, this is a good starting point.
I can’t compare it to anything as of recent except Esben and the Witch‘s own EP, 33, and that, perhaps, is the sign of the band finding confidence in their own sound in their very own début album. Whether they evolve or stay there for a little longer remains to be seen.
You can stream the whole album right here.
Links for Esben and the witch.