Here is a band fairly much surrounded by hype. Upon listening to their debut album however, it would appear that it is well deserved. Violet Cries is a stunningly theatrical work, yet one that never approaches melodrama, full of eerie echoes and ghostly vocals.
Opening track Argyria starts delicately, barely there at all. A distant sounding guitar is heard, backed by a pulsating drumbeat. After a very slow build up, there are some echo-drenched wails from singer Rachel Davies before it bursts into life, unleashing a fuller and richer sound upon the listener, until descending again into near silence.
Second track, Marching Song, contrasts severely with the atmospheric latter. Davies sings more determinedly over a cacophony of distorted guitars, thundering drums and a stern bassline.
The album continues in this way, swaying between minimalist electronica with whispered vocals, and the more powerful sound of pounding drums accompanied by feral wails and cries from Davies. This continual contrast throughout the album forms an interesting, almost hypnotising listen, lulling the listener into a false sense of security before re-awakening them to what is, at times, a claustrophobic sound.
The band’s name is taken from a particularly morbid Danish fairytale, and this is a foreboding indication to the sinisterly gothic tales that unravel through the lyrics of each song. Opening track, Argyria, is about silver oxide poisoning, but this is hardly the most bizarre subject explored.
What Esben and the Witch have created is a beautiful, darkly romantic sound yet, rather refreshingly, often without the standard romantic lyrical content of so much contemporary music. Even with its weirdly wonderful lyrics, Violet Cries is a swirling, atmospheric record that remains intriguing throughout.