For Middle Boop Mag
Brighton-spawned trio, Esben and the Witch, turned heads back in 2010 as one of the success stories of the ‘Indie-goth’ movement that saw the likes of Zola Jesus, Sleigh Bells and Warpaint break ranks.
At first glance, Esben and the Witch aesthetically fulfil all the initial genre clichés, complete with a band name taken directly from a Danish fairytale involving cruelty, ritual slaughter and all manner of unpleasantness. This was all evident in their dark debut, Violet Cries, complete with horror film-esque cover.
To immediately contrast the artwork for follow-up release, Wash the Sins Not Only The Face, is a sophisticated mystery. Judging an album by its cover would be completely legit here.
As the band crash into opener, ‘Iceland Spar’, with all the energy of an excitable toddler, existing genres chains are broken. This is a new Esben journey and they want you onboard.
‘When That Head Splits’ suggests a scene from a Romero film, however, instead its an ironic blend of guitar-fuelled dream-pop. Think; a dark and mysterious Beach House having a party with Siouxsie Sioux.
The band are more confident with this release. ‘Deathwaltz’ in an uncompromising offering of dark, yet jangly guitar hooks, and catchy percussion beats.
Rachel Davies’ stunning vocals lead into ‘The Fall Of Glorieta Mountain’, and it is the perfect showcase of her lyrical talents, having taken the lead on scripting the album. The melodic relationship between guitar and vocal may lean some nods towards The XX, but there is no mistaking the unique sound Esben have created.
If ‘Iceland Spar’ was the dramatic opener, than ‘Smashed To Pieces In The Still Of The Night’ is the perfect juxtaposition to conclude. It is the final curtain on this intense and vivid story. A big instrumental build-up adds to the expectant atmosphere. Even standalone, it is an incredible piece of music,
Expecting an obvious and easy first listen would be like be like asking Damien Hirst to make you a stick man from lollysticks: there’s a far richer and more sophisticated set of musical treats on display here than any of the band’s similar contemporaries have released recently. However, its worth it; with album two, EATW show their musical maturity and continue to develop creative effervescent styles that bend and defy genre boundaries, whilst managing to maintain a perfect homage to a bygone era of music.