Review Summary: This album scared me when I was young and it's still pretty damn creepy these days.
Looking back it seems like the best times I had listening to music were when I was a kid and just discovering it. Back then every album had the potential to show me something I had never experienced before and I looked forward to it. I’ll always remember Persistence of Time
as my introduction to speed, aggression and awesome solos and I’ll remember Operation: Mindcrime
as the first album to ever give me chills. I’ll also always remember the first album that ever scared the crap out of me to the point that I couldn’t listen to it alone or in the dark. The album that scarred my little child psyche was none other than Wings of Joy
. By the time I came across this album I had already discovered thrash, death metal and industrial but none of them gave me the feeling of dread like this album did. Even to this day there is creepiness to this album that I haven’t really found anywhere else.
A large part of the feeling I got came from the vocals of Alison Shaw. It’s no stretch to say that if one of those little girls from the Japanese horror movies was ever to sing it would sound like Alison. Her vocals are high and childlike, sounding like an undead 12 year old girl; seriously. I remember the first time I heard the opening song, “Watersong”, with its plucked violin melody and what sounded like an oboe. The music itself already sounded eerie enough, but when the soft crooning of Alison came in singing a melody reminiscent of a demented schoolyard nursery rhyme I remember having to flip on the lights. This atmosphere that I can only describe as “haunted house-like” permeates through out this entire album. If you’ve ever been alone in a room and had a feeling of being watched, that is the type of feeling this album gave me back in the day and it still gets pretty close these days.
Songs such as “Living and Breathing” and “Starblood” only intensify this uneasy feeling. These songs, again, are built around the ghostly vocals of Alison Shaw but the music goes farther by adding white noise, percussion, guitars and moody piano passages. Musically, songs like the two I mentioned before almost come off as condensed precursors of what post-metal would become. They’re dark and moody with occasional distorted outbursts that seemingly come from nowhere complete with mammoth percussion. Even the single, “Tomorrow’s Tears”, comes off as gloomy and twisted despite its catchy chorus and pretty piano melody; mainly due to the haunting vocals of Alison. After the slight reprieve that the single allows, the album returns to the strange, haunting feeling it had before and never lets up again.
If the undead little girls of Japanese horror movies give you the creeps then this is the soundtrack to your fear. The vocals of Alison Shaw are some of the eeriest I’ve ever heard. Her thin, lispy delivery combined with the childlike sound of her voice simply saturates the mood in disturbing darkness and the musical accompaniment only adds to that feeling. If ever there was an album that fit the month of October it is this one. It is gloomy, haunting and almost sinister in its atmosphere despite being made up almost entirely of piano and synth melodies. Most people will already be too jaded for this album to actually scare them but it still might be able to give them an uneasy feeling that most music probably hadn’t been able to in a long time.