Top critical review
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There's only so far atmosphere can go...
on 26 April 2011
I got the album mostly based on the singles, "Marching Song" and "Warpath". Brooding, gothic, very fitting from the same label as Interpol. Spooky lyrics. Great build-up to the song. Creepy music videos, too. Sadly, the singles turned out to be the best songs on the album.
And it's a band from Brighton! I might actually be able to go to their live shows. So, I thought of supporting them by just blindly going to the HMV and buying the album.
Little did I know, the rest of the album wanders and builds to not much variation. Most of the songs are a lot of atmosphere, one melody perhaps, that won't be too memorable once you've gone through the whole album. It's repetitive, and not to an effect. The songs are redeemable on their own if you're not going through the whole album.
What drove me off the wall was the production quality and massive ammounts of reverb. This is more down to the fault of the mixing by Rodaidh Mcdonald (he also did mixing for "xx"). It just doesn't sound well, and I thought my headphones were messed up when beeps started hurting my ears on "Argyria".I listened to it on my CD player, and nope still hurting my ears. Most of the songs start just start to sound the same, thanks to the over-emphasised reverb to the point of you can't tell any of the instruments apart. And the fact that there isn't solid songwriting, because most of the songs barring "Light Streams" have one idea and not much evolution. Thankfully, Rachel Davies' tortured vocals are just enough to get you through each song without skipping them all.
Sometimes, there are guitar riffs to help point out which song you might be listening to, such as in "Chorea", but good luck with telling "Argyria", "Marine Fields Glow", "Hexagons IV", and "Battlecry/Mimicry" apart. The drums and Davies' vocals are the strongest points, so they come well together in the 6+ minute epic, "Eumenides". Unfortunately, they have to have an anti-climatic ending song as "Swans" where it builds and goes nowhere, accompanied by Davies' weakest singing on the album.
Esben and the Witch have a good concept going of sticking to post-punk goth vibes, but they need to pad out the building with variation in song structure. It's a decent but promising debut album. However, there's only so far atmosphere can go, before you have to actually make songs out of it.