Review Summary: If Storm Daughter set out to craft an ambitiously entertaining experience, this release is surely a success.
The softness of a lone piano, accented, here and there, by an intriguing tonal orchestration of percussion, bass, and harp proves an appropriate prelude to an EP of such distinct originality and intricacy as this, the debut release from Storm Daughter. A distinct combination of Koji Kondo-esque melody, atmosphere reminiscent of Cloudkicker, and a strong rhythmic element in stark command of each song provide these five tracks with a uniqueness all their own. The level of layered complexity, the uniqueness of the content, and the production are stand-outs that separate this release from the endless sea of other self-produced one-man guitar-fests.
The high level of complexity woven into each piece leaves one with plenty of reason to experience this self-titled release far more than once, as subtle nuances will continue to reveal themselves beneath the music with repeated listens. A wonderful example of this underlying complexity is the tonal experimentation found in the opening of the track "After", with the haunting atmosphere of bells driven by a sophisticated bass-line powerfully setting the mood of this composition. These are later joined by crushing guitars and commanding strings, which are artfully used to great effect. The orchestral feel conveyed by the climactic and dynamic end of this particular song serves as a perfect illustration of the uncommonly refreshing sound possessed by Storm Daughter. Though "After" proves a great archetype in terms of the artist's 'sound', the instance in which this release's complexity and sheer beauty shine through the most is the following track, "In Memory Of…". A classically-inspired and mainly piano-driven soundscape accompanied by strings and ambient synth pads powerfully conveys a soothing sense of artistry in a concoction of layered melodies and underlying atmospheres. Yet again the intricacy here presents itself in a way that may only be uncovered with multiple listens. Allow me here to clarify what I mean by complexity in relation to this EP. Though the use of confusing time signatures and tonal shifts are apparent, the elaborate nature of this release lies more-so in the multitude of layers and the careful attention to detail within every frequency of each piece; the bass more than serves its purpose in the low end, the strings command the higher frequencies, and the guitar, piano, and synth fill out the mids in a way that makes the entirety of the ensemble feel quite complete. It is the intricacy and complexity in this particular sense that force one to pay attention to even the most minute of details, allowing one to discover a new melody or concealed accent with continued play-throughs.
Uniqueness is an attribute so desperately sought out by nearly every aspiring artist, and Storm Daughter in no way fails to uphold its distinct sound throughout the entirety of this release. With such starkly contrasting tracks as the dynamic build-up of the opening piece "Journey Well" and the epic, metallic, orchestral black metal-esque fourth track "Shrine of the Moonlight Butterfly", there exists scarcely any room whatsoever for one to find monotony in the short fifteen minute run-time of this EP. Such a wide range of genres spliced together in a cohesive and smooth listen gives Storm Daughter a sound all its own. When one thinks of artists such as the aforementioned Cloudkicker, a unique sound immediately attaches itself to the artist name, as the individual musical personality of so distinct a musician becomes unmistakable once heard. This release possesses a similar feel, as I don't believe I could easily mistake any of these tracks for another artist. It is in this way that the undeniable uniqueness of Storm Daughter will stick with you immediately following your first listen, as mastermind Johnny King has certainly forged himself a sound all his own, surely leaving a personal anticipation for future releases and experimentation lingering inside of all who take the time to truly appreciate such music.
In many instances, particularly in self-produced indie albums and essentially expected in Norwegian black metal releases, the production fails to be "pristine" or "polished" in the sense often found when listening to the albums of any number of mainstream artists possessing a fortune to spend on production alone. To a select few, this "poor" production quality may serve as a rather off-putting attribute and leaves plenty of releases, brimming with brilliance, powerfully ignored by the masses. However, to those with an open mind and an ear for the personality that self-production brings to the table, as well as the individual timbres that would fail to exist otherwise, such works of art are only increased in creative quality ten-fold. The production found on Storm Daughter's self-titled EP is inventive and further solidifies the individual and very particular sound already crafted by the music itself. Possibly the best representation of this is within the final track "Flickering Into Life", which begins delicately and beautifully and eventually finds itself transforming into a steel-like, distorted mass of uplifting melody. The varying sounds expressed here are only further enriched by the production, as soft strings, unyielding and dissonant guitars, playful synths, and a plethora of vibes dictated by the complex drum patterns are all flawlessly intertwined in the mix. Production is key to defining the personality of a release, which Storm Daughter has more than understood in crafting this one-of-a-kind aural experience.
As the concluding seconds of closer "Flickering Into Life" fade away, stripped one-by-one of guitar, bass, and onto drums until finally, only the synth remains, a sense of completeness is felt. The synth shifts from ear to ear in solitude, accompanied by no sound save its own. Every so often one discovers an artist with the talent to convey a work of thoughtful and creative venture; one that only such an artist could accurately actualize. Given the proper investment of this release, there is much to be discovered and a multitude to be enjoyed. Once the whole picture is displayed and each note becomes apparent, a feeling of totality, like the final moments of the synth fading away, overcomes the listener. If Storm Daughter set out to craft an ambitiously entertaining experience, this release is surely a success.