Updated: Jan 10
This has been an album I have looked forward to since first hearing Witch of the Vale's track 'Fever' back in 2018. This was back when we had a nice collection of fresh and intriguing bands becoming widely known on the lips of the Gothic community in the UK seemingly overnight; Witch of the Vale, and SKYND being two prime examples.
This debut album brings together 8 songs from previous EPs and a remix release, as well as adding five new tracks, and an incredible cover of Lana Del Rey's 'Gods and Monsters.'
Most impressively for this album and the band themselves is being signed to Cleopatra records, a label which has some huge names on it with Witch of the Vale currently sat at the top of their Bandcamp page:
Erin and Ryan Hawthorne bring together two forms of theme in their music. The two sides being the beautiful tragedy of Gothic music and the ancient instinctual atmosphere of paganism in to a rather ethereal blending of spiritual with electronic.
Perhaps this kind of soul touching and otherworldly music is only possible living in a remote and beautiful land, such is their location in the Outer Hebridean Isles of Scotland.
Recently the band took part in Beat:Cancer at home, performing another magical cover, this time of Nine Inch Nails' 'Hurt' and were interviewed by one of the B:C DJs - Duracell Bunny.
'Something Lost' is an ambient track that perfectly establishes the magical landscape, harmoniously mixing electronics with nature, and the soul.
'Fever' and 'Trust the pain' are two tracks that anyone familiar with Witch of the Vale will already know well and for good reason. The slow majestic beats, alongside the melodic grace of Erin's voice, makes it quite easy to close your eyes and drift away on a personal journey without realising where the time went. They are truly relaxing and feel like a bath for the soul that you can happily drown in.
The same is true of 'The way this will end.' The string sections alongside the rest of the musical ensemble creates a deep, deep emotional well that is so incredibly easy to fall in to but so hard to get out of. It's Gothic perfection..
'Undressed' is the first new song we come across in this album and follows the same formula of the previous two Vale classics I just spoke about. There is a real sense of impending dread but it is mesmerizing regardless of the atmospheric and lyrical content.
Like a vampire hypnotising their next victim, you feel drawn in and smile at the enthralling tone of voice even though you know something isn't right.
How on Earth Vale manages to blend the juxtaposition of making music that should be depressing or sinister in to something rather spiritually uplifting and positive, is beyond me.
Perhaps it is an album to vindicate emotions, to sooth and balm with empathy through shared experience, or maybe I am looking too deep in to the music. Who knows?
In fact most of the album continues this rather similar template but this is far from a bad thing. One would not expect to be disappointed if all they ever found in their gold mine was gold.
After all, if something is working and working extremely well, then keep it going.
'The sky and the sea' deviates slightly in that it feels like a ghost story backed with an air of chillstep which is coincidentally rather fitting in name. This next to one of their older songs 'Your voice' definitely adds to that chillstep vibe with the relaxing beats, sweeping synths, and rain drop perfect piano.
The title track 'Commemorate' is a little bit heavier. Musically it feels a lot more industrial on Ryan's part and somewhat Madonna esque on Erin's. There is even a faint underlying aggrotech growl to some the vocals echoing behind Erin's which is a much welcomed addition for those who love the harsher side of industrial and vocals like myself. It is very faint, but mixed in with pure skill.
Commemorate music video:
'Gods and monsters' is one of my favourite songs. Not only did Lana Del Rey captivate me with it originally but so too did the American Horror Story version shortly after.
Recently Daniel Graves of Aesthetic Perfection covered this majestically in his Cellar session so you think I would have had enough of this song, and how you would be wrong.
It's so easy for people to use the word angelic to describe a voice but never has it been more appropriate or deserving to say that Erin's voice is beyond angelic, it is ethereal and completes something inside of those who hear her sing. She therefore covers this song in top form.
'The Ghosts Won't Know' is another classic of theirs that I am so happy is included on this album.
'Live Again' finishes off the album with a dash of classical strings, much to my pleasure.
Trust the Pain
The Sky And The Sea
The Way This Will End
Gods & Monsters
The Ghosts Won't Know
In a world overrun by dystopia and cyberpunk themes, with Witch of the Vale we see the element that is lost in amongst the technocracy of entertainment.. Magic. There is a real sense of fantasy, of spirituality, and of hope in amongst the dark mystery and tragedy of Witch of the Vale's music. This album is beautiful in it's Gothic tragedy and cinematic scope.
Erin is pitch perfect and plucks at the heart strings of every listener. Ryan masterfully wraps his instrumental sections around you like a warm blanket, or like a vine of thorns in equal measure making this a truly emotional complex album to process.
Witch of the Vale are true pioneers of blending the line of reality and a real testament to the powerful talent that can be found in the most distant corners, deep in the forests, and away from the mainstream.
Soul factor: 9/10
Overall score: 9.1 / 10
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