Review Summary: A good debut album which shows plenty of promise
Black absorbing clouds cast their ominous shadow over a ruinous, desolate, stony beach, darkness immersing you completely. “Metallic voices, gleaming white and breeding light” sings Rachel Davies, ethereally, amid the haunting spirits weeping behind her – a flood of reverb engulfing your ears. From the ominous start of ‘Argyria’ to the bluesy, mournful conclusion in ‘Swans’ it is impossible to escape the haunting grasp of ‘Violet Cries’, the debut album from Esben and the Witch.
Everything to do with the album is done with the intent of taking you into the gothic world that the ‘BBC Sound of 2011’ nominees have created – the mystical album cover and the mournful title all add to the effect. Each song carries with it the ghostly singing and eerie reverb and the epic rises and falls that you see in the already released single ‘Marching Song’. Using post rock sounding guitars, military styled drumming and sometimes implementing sounds that could be found in dubstep artists like Burial, the trio have created this artistic album with expert intricacy and boldness. This album is no Twilight soundtrack, nor will it be being used as backing music to any Daniel Radcliffe jaw clenching anytime soon. It is an album of the mature gothic rather than for those conforming to the teenage pseudo-goth scene.
The album works as a collective, creating an ebb and flow that runs seamlessly throughout. It creates that night-time mystique that ‘The xx’ so expertly created last year but adds to it a further darkness and grandness. While the individual songs on Violet Cries will not gain the success that singles from The xx have done, it is an easy comparison to make. Violet Cries also contains an element of the epic created by what seems to be a sense of desolation following some sort of apocalyptic battle that flows throughout the album – it is by no means minimalist but instead creates an expansive and ominous sound whose grasp will hold you tight, strangling the light out of your surroundings throughout listening.
It does this not just through reverb and synths but also contains more old fashioned sounds and motives which add to the almost melancholic mystique that is found within the album. The marching drums and American western bluesy guitar along with the lyrics, that at times read like war poetry, all add to this.
The major problem is that ‘Marching Song’, ‘Light Streams’ and the ending of ‘Euminides’ are the only songs that you could listen to aside from the atmosphere created within the album. ‘Swans’ works well as the sorrowful reflection at the end of the album but it seems at times as though this is the automatic ambition of each song – each song is so embroidered with gloom and doom that it is difficult imagining listening to many of them outside of the context of the album.
However, this does not dismiss that the album works brilliantly in creating this atmosphere and listening to it will always make the day seem that little bit darker.