There are shadows cast from the emanating sounds produced by Brighton trio Esben and the Witch. Their music is as epic as it is suffocating, it will have you peering into a darkened room questioning if, at any point, the band may switch the lights on – or at least turn the dimmer a few degrees. But with a band name taken from a grim Danish fairytale (and we mean grim), the signs were there all along, so what were we expecting.
Truth be told, Bowlegs is more then willing to traverse across a deeply blackened landscape in search of a deeper meaning, but we did kind of hope there would be a reward at the end. With ‘Violet Cries’ there is no end, let alone a reward – it is a series of hollow voids and cold-edged emotion – yet, for some reason, you keep on walking.
‘Chorea’ is a good example of how uncompromising things can get, it also demonstrates how these three musicians can leave a trail of intrigue that you can’t help but follow. The blown out screams and distorted crashes are left behind as delayed synths and shaking guitars slowly swell with a ghostly vocal – a moment of short-lived solace. And there are more such moments to cling to, landmarks to help remember your way home. The falling guitar notes in ‘Warpath’ or the vocal calm before the stomping, staccato storm within ‘Light Streams’.
This is a deep, textured record – and one that shouldn’t be dismissed through its unrelenting nature. However, its screaming wall of guitars, forever changing beats and its deeply atmospheric synths will make little attempt to get to know you, let alone become friends. And though singer Rachel Davies displays a captivating voice throughout, she is all but under the same spell as her overcast surroundings.
Moments like ‘Marching Song’ and ‘Marines Field Glow’ do point to a more honed future, but until then we are happy to cower to the sounds of Esben. RT