NOTE 4/3/13: I don't necessarily still stand by the opinions below. I would say nowadays that the songs sound great and atmospheric on shuffle among other music, but as an actual ALBUM it's not so enjoyable. I've not deleted the review on the off chance you might still find some useful information in it. I've upped the very misguided original one star overall score to four.
I'm not a big fan of ambient music. I can like it if things happen musically or lyrically on a regular basis, or if it has the backbone of proper songwriting. If you like almost all ambient music as a genre in and of itself then you should ignore this review and just buy it. This review is only of use to those who think ambient is sometimes a fancy code-word for boring noodling and weak songwriting.
The first album, When Your Blackening Shows
, was sort of okay. It had a nice glacial Gothic darkness to it that I liked. It was just a bit boring over the full length of the album as there was only about three solid songs on it. I put those on an EP playlist and I have listened to that many times. I wasn't holding out too much hope for their second album Golden Sea. Supposedly it was a bit more "pop", more straightforward and refined. Perhaps even favouring songs over drifting ambient soundscapes.
In my opinion, others may argue otherwise, they have kept the ambient soundscapes but have somehow misplaced, deliberately or not?, the Gothic romance and dread of before. Maybe I'm wrong but isn't their Gothic sound the most important thing about them? There are a few songs that nod towards relatively straightforward "pop" but not enough to even begin to shake off the ambient genre tag for this album. Mood and atmosphere wins out over tightly constructed and fully developed songs. Too many of these tracks sound more like sonic sketches than proper complete songs.
An ambient album from this band without the medieval Gothic atmosphere seems a bit pointless in my opinion.
1. The Departure (4 out of 10 stars)
The music was quite nice but the vocals didn't make much of a contribution. Also it seems odd/wrong that the album doesn't open with a longer instrumental intro to set the mood.
2. In The Lowlands (3 out of 10 stars)
Nothing happens and it ends abruptly. A nothing of a "song".
3. The Feral (3 out of 10 stars)
Has a more solid sound to it with violins and a galloping bass(?). Another track that doesn't have much of an ending. All very indifferent.
4. Garden Grow (5 out of 10 stars)
Clearer vocals and a stomping pop music sheen. Doesn't do much with it. Far from special. Reminds me a little of Feist
, specifically like a tepid retread of My Moon My Man.
5. Nightsong (2 out of 10 stars)
If something's happening then it's so subtle that it completely eluded me. Filler.
6. The Burial (6 out of 10 stars)
This one felt like a proper song with real lyrics that are actually about something. Also has a sense of forward motion. It has a slight Gothic edge that is reminiscent of the wildly overrated Bat For Lashes
. Decent song but not a show-stopper.
7. Seven Wild Horses (3 out of 10 stars)
Has an aquatic underwater quality on the backing track, although it's really meant to sound like horses hoofs. An interesting effect. Sadly there is nothing else of note about the song.
8. Share (6 out of 10 stars)
An okay song of no distinction. Clearer than usual vocals.
9. Warriors Of Love (4 out of 10 stars)
Bland subdued track. Threatens to do something with the military drums building from about the mid point, but they dissipate before they have a chance to do anything interesting.
10. The Dark Red Roses (5 out of 10 stars)
Hints at the Gothic feel of the previous album with its church organ that makes the bass frequencies rattle (I could feel it in my legs as I sat in-front of my CD player, which is something I doubt an AAC or MP3 rip will be able to replicate). Not much of a song but I like it's Gothic atmosphere.
10 continued. Bonus Track (1 out of 10 stars)
An unpleasant noise. Whoever came up with the idea of attaching a bonus track to the end of the last song in this day and age is an idiot. I've included some information in the comments section that explains how to separate the two songs into different tracks.
I like to make EP playlists out of some albums on my iPod. Tracks 4, 6, 8 and 10 (with the bonus track removed) made the cut.
This review comes across as very negative. In truth the 41 minute album isn't terrible and I don't hate it. I'm just unimpressed and disappointed. I recommend buying their first album, When Your Blackening Shows
, instead if you don't already have it. If you do have it then I can't really recommend bothering with this unless you really loved their sound and don't mind that they've lost the Gothic edge from their music.
Overall 3 out of 10 for the whole album.
NOTE: I've included my review for the first album in the comments section.
NOTE 18/3/11: I've lived with the album now for five months. These songs have come up a lot on shuffle and in that context they sound much better. I stand by my review for the most part (basically stick another star on each track) but I would add that I would give it 8 out of 10 as a collection of songs for playing on shuffle. I also still stand by my rating of 3 out of 10 for it as an ALBUM.
To remove any confusion I'll sum it up again: As an album of songs to be played in a specific order I don't care for it. When these songs turn up randomly among other songs in my music collection I enjoy them much more.