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Cellar Darling - The Spell

Label: Nuclear Blast
Format: CD
Released: 2019
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 10/10


This is an amazing accomplishment. Anna Murphy, Ivo Henzi and Merlin Sutter left Eluvietie in 2016 to form a band whose name is easier to spell. Their impressive first album as Cellar Darling, “This is the Sound,” dropped the next year, led by the ultra-catchy single “Avalanche.”

 

Two years later, Anna and Co. have upped the stakes, upped the ante, upped everything on their second album, “The Spell.” It’s a concept album, and on CDs, it’s one disc of music, one disc of an audiobook telling the story. This stratospheric ambition filters through all aspect of “The Spell.” The first album was good, the first album was fine; this album is a work of tremendous ambition and depth. It seeks to be a work of importance, and it is.
Where their former band likes to intertwine folk instrumentation with blend of clean and harsh Death Metal vocals, Cellar Darling tend toward a bit more accessibility, with Anna Murphy’s distinctive lead voice and hurdy-gurdy woven into the fabric of the traditional Metal and Alternative sounds.
Each of the songs are given simple one-word titles, e.g.: “Love,” “Death,” Sleep,” etc., and are written with ferocious creativity and meticulous care. The riffage and melodies are just beautiful; they’ve selected only the finest processions and sections, and have done masterful work of piecing them together, even working in motifs that repeat throughout the album. There’s also a masterful use of negative space and non-traditional instruments - - such as slightly detuned piano, flute, and of course, the hurdy-gurdy - - to meld with Murphy’s haunting voice to convey atmosphere, mood, and emotion, simultaneously hopeful and bleak.
The result is a progressive masterpiece that’s as much Tori Amos, Eleven, Stone Temple Pilots, The Cure, and Clannad as it is Metal, with some elements of Devin Townsend and Anneke van Giersbergen. “The Spell” is an inspired work that frequently touches on genius. Listen and believe that lofty achievements of mind and songwriting are still possible.
Note that I’ve based this review solely on the musical aspect of it. . . because that’s where it hit me first. Once you’ve taken this journey a few times and it’s become a part of you, you can dive in deeper to the lyrics and audiobook side, to pick up on the concept story.

 
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