There was a time, many years ago, where city lights didn’t exist. There were not any cities at all. Not as we used to know them nowadays at least. What they had was woods. Never-ending woods. Up in the north they might have been a vast multitude of pines, or spruces. Maybe both. They were so close to each other that light barely dwelled amongst those gnarled branches.
The only things that could have broken up that pattern of wilderness and darkness were few scattered wooden cabins. People lived there. Those folks used to lit fires in the evening. They had many reasons to do that. It would have brought a tad of light to those long, cold nights. They would have rested their tired and withered limbs at the crackling flame. But most important, the bonfire kept wolves away. They were a real threat to the folks of the wooden village. Wolves could kill animals or worst, people too. They were scary and dangerous. But even the scariest of wolf wasn’t as frightening as a Witch.
A wolf could kill you, but a Witch could eat your soul. A Witch is the devil’s mistress. A Witch is pure evil. And that ought to be defied.
A wolf could kill. A Witch must be killed. And so they were…
Esben and the Witch is the title of a traditional Danish fairy tale. But this ain’t no fairy tale. It is a Nightmare. That was what the English trio pictured over their latest Older Terrors. (out via Season of Mist) The once “nightmare pop” act, as they had tagged themselves at their debut years, has now changed its course. Trading the dub, electronic synths with renewed darkness, somehow mystical experience of post-rock tinted Goth-pop.
Older Terrors counts four songs. All of them hit and pass the ten minute mark. Long songs with relatively easy structures. Quiet entrance, then vocal and it all eventually storms toward a classic post rock climax. And then quiet again. What Esben and the Witch does, is taking this picture and put it into a gloomy frame. Every detail turns into fear, here. As every movement becomes an extension of an ancient time horror. It’s creepy yet enchanting.
The strongest magic comes from the singer and bassist Rachel Davies. The voice, that oftentimes stands placid, works as the leading subject on this disc. Not to mention it can craft wonderful moments when none-to-little accompaniment lies beneath. See the ending of Sylvan or the first verses of The Reverist to enjoy these sustained, soul touching performances.
The other instruments form a heavy yet hard-to-be-deciphered layer of noise, when the singing isn’t there. Otherwise, they would become a light, droning carpet with just a present bass bearing the voice. Those vicious airs strongly recall Wolves in The Throne Room‘s Celestial Lineage. In fact, both bands have a disturbing bent for sombre, persuasive and twisted atmospheres.
Esben and the Witch‘s latest effort is gothic poetry. It sings stories of atavistic remembrance. Horrors and credence that must have been forgotten nowadays. But truth is they are not. And with Older Terrors they got one more little, flickering glimpse of life.