Review by Lindsey Craun.
The faint melody of a guitar erupts into a whirlwind of commotion halfway into “Argyria,” the first track on Esben and The Witch’s debut album, Violet Cries. With a suiting name, this album overflows with intensity. Each song contains drawn out vocal displays paired with heavy percussion and various echo-like effects. While the gothic effect is mastered through these different types of sounds, at times I couldn’t help but think that all the bells and whistles detracted from Rachel Davies’s vocal talents.
“The Marching Song” was released back in September and offered a perfect preview of the kind of dark pieces these guys had in store with Violet Cries. This song has a strong backbeat and builds up in intensity toward the end of the song. I’d argue that Esben and The Witch’s musical talent is most evident in “The Marching Song,” whereas some of the others seem to be more of a compilation of arbitrary noise. “Marine Fields Glow” is a bit mellower than the rest with an emphasis on soft piano that’s a nice break from all the heaviness.
“Light Streams” is most typical of what you’d find on the album. Like the songs following it, you’ll hear a ton of percussion that seems to take over, drowning out anything and everything else in the song. After a certain point, all the clashes and thumps begin to just seem plain obnoxious. Expect to be disturbed in “Battlecry-Mimicry.” Torturous screams seemingly stemming from the artists writhing in pain accompany a war march drumbeat that builds up to the six-minute-long “Euminides.” This song encompasses everything typical of Esben and The Witch and it’s filled with fury. A different, more vocally based style is introduced in the album’s last song, “Swans.” They close out with this really beautiful song that captures the band’s intensely stark essence in a much simpler manner with what sounds like just a girl and a guitar.
Violet Cries isn’t laid back in any sense, but allows us an opportunity to explore the beauty that lies in the dark side we all possess.