Sat. Nov 28th, 2020

REVIEW: Cellar Darling – The Spell (Musicalypse Archive)

It feels like just yesterday that ELUVEITIE parted ways with Anna Murphy, Ivo Henzi, and Merlin Sutter. In truth, it hasn’t been a very long time, and CELLAR DARLING is already back with their sophomore album, “The Spell,” a mere 2 years after the release of their debut, This is the Sound.” Their first album was well-received by their fans, leaving high hopes for its follow-up.

While I like several CELLAR DARLING songs, I found their first album to be good without reaching the status of great. There was a ton of potential, a good foundation, but some songs fell flat or didn’t hold up after repeated listens. Some songs required full immersion into the lyrics before they clicked. However, it was intriguing enough to pique my interest when the new album was announced. Have they developed enough in 2 years to pull me in a bit more?

“The Spell” is a concept album, whose story follows a mysterious woman who falls in love with Death. Death then casts a spell on her to live eternally and be forever parted from him, and she wanders the earth seeking ways to die so they may be reunited.

First of all, I want to say that my music collection is pretty much fully digitized these days, but if you are a fan, I 100% recommend getting the physical album. The artwork by Costin Chioreanu is absolutely perfect throughout, and even the placement of the lyrics in the booklet helps to tell the story. Artistically speaking, as a physical concept album, this package is a perfect 10, and you’re definitely going to miss out on a bit if you don’t see the booklet.

I have to confess that I have never had quite this much trouble piecing my feelings on an album together. When I listened to “Six Days” from This is the Sound,” I made no note of the song until I saw the video (also by Chioreanu) with the lyrics, and suddenly the song came to life and was filled with meaning and purpose. This album is rather the same. When I just put it on in the background without paying much attention to it, my response was a hearty “meh.” However, once I was able to read the lyrics and piece the story together, it all became clear and my opinion completely changed.

In a sense, this feels to me less like a heavy metal (or however you want to define CELLAR DARLING‘s genre) album and more like a story told through music. Standing alone, I don’t have any specific fondness for many of these songs. I doubt more than a handful of them will make it onto my regular metal playlists. However, as a concept album, the story may have been executed flawlessly.

It’s not uncommon to find the lyrics in concept albums to be too convoluted, but each song on this album is written very poetically and sung beautifully by Murphy. I love that she uses deeper tones when she’s singing as Death, in the song of the same name, for example. The music doesn’t really stand out when you listen on its own, but when you take the story they’re telling into account, the soundscape does a wonderful job of backing up the words and creating atmosphere. It almost gives me the impression that I’m listening to a movie with the music as a soundtrack.

The title track was released quite some time ago, and again, I didn’t much care for it out of context. “From roots to moons” gets stuck in my head far too easily and is too repetitive to be an enjoyable earworm not unlike Challenge Me). However, combined with the haunting hurdy-gurdy and vocals, this song legitimately feels like someone is casting a spell, so in that sense, it’s spot-on.

Another note is that this album is going to be completely done in video by Chioreanu, and based on the pattern of those which have been released already, his gorgeous artwork and eerie take on the imagery created by the band will do nothing but elevate the story further.

CELLAR DARLING has certainly found a sound that’s very unique to them. The use of instruments beyond what the musicians themselves use is really nice. There is so much more than just hurdy-gurdy, guitar, and drums. These guys have pieced together a full spectrum, including pianos, flutes, and so much more.

As a concept album, this is a really unique perspective on story-telling and music, and I was shockingly impressed with it. While it’s not really something I would listen to the way I would normally listen to music, I feel like I’ll be more inclined to treat this album as a movie and put it on when I want to have an experience, listening to the whole thing (and learning the lyrics/story). If I have one question about the story – which I’ll likely save for another interview – it would be to ask them their thoughts on this depiction of Death, as I wonder what its motivation was in this tragic tale.

Written by Bear Wiseman
Musicalypse, 2019
OV: 2931

Tracklist

  1. Pain
  2. Death
  3. Love
  4. The Spell
  5. Burn
  6. Hang
  7. Sleep
  8. Insomnia
  9. Freeze
  10. Fall
  11. Drown
  12. Love pt. II
  13. Death pt. II

Lineup

Anna Murphy – vocals, hurdy-gurdy

Ivo Henzi – guitars

Merlin Sutter – drums

Label

Nuclear Blast Records

Links

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