REVIEW: Blackbriar – The Cause of Shipwreck

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The Dutch metal scene is notorious for its symphonic metal bands, each one more original and interesting than the last. Following in the footsteps of such class acts like EPICA, WITHIN TEMPTATION, or EX LIBRIS, BLACKBRIAR mixes a healthy dose of Gothic imagery into their brand of symphonic metal, thus standing out from the crowd a bit more. And after three EPs – “Fractured Fairytales,” “We’d Rather Burn,” and “Our Mortal Remains” – the time has finally come for them to put out a full-length album. “The Cause of Shipwreck” was released independently on April 23rd, 2021.

This debut was a long time in the making, but it is well worth the wait as most of my expectations regarding the album have been met. Their dark and somewhat eerie compositions take on more layers and shades of grey given that the songs are about mythical creatures, primal forces of nature, ghosts, times long gone, darkness, and love. These lyrical themes come to life beautifully as the wondrous Gothic world that BLACKBRIAR has created is enhanced by majestic arrangements, big orchestrations, groovy melodies, and hooky choruses. On top of all that, Zora Cock’s haunting and ethereal vocals are the icing on the cake.

Released as the first single, “The Séance” showcases the band’s affinity for big, epic stories with unusual or supernatural twists. In this case, it’s about a ghost trying to communicate with its loved ones. Portraying the aforementioned ghost, Zora Cock’s delivery is intense and dramatic, especially in during the mid-section when she uses her vibrato to mimic the cries of a phantom. She is backed up nicely by atmospheric keys, orchestral arrangements, and powerful guitar lines. The latest single, “Walking Over My Grave,” has the same epic scope to it, albeit it is more upbeat and theatrical, as the band has found a way to put that particular shudder/feel to music. Piano notes, pounding drums, and grave vocals introduce the song, which grows in intensity and explodes into a very hooky chorus section. The backing orchestration only adds to the ominous vibe of the music. However, from the singles released from the album, “Selkie” is the one that captures the imagination the most. Supported by a folky and up-tempo melody, it tells the tale of a man who falls in love with a mythical creature, but their love affair ends up in tragedy. The story-telling aspect of this song is on a whole new level of greatness, from the lyrics to the backing instrumentation to the arrangements, all the way to the accompanying video.

Elsewhere on this album, opening track “Confess” and following track “Weakness and Lust” are quite cinematic, as strings and piano combine with the vocals to create grandiose soundscapes that mesh well with a sense of foreboding and playfulness. It feels like these two songs present the same story from two points of view – the trial and the confession – and Zora Cock navigates really well between accusing and seductive, respectively. Acting as a ballad, “You’re Haunting Me” is a stripped down piece of music with somber strings, piano, and low vocals that work together to create a desolate and gloomy atmosphere. Both “Through the Crevice” and “My Down-to-Earth Lover” are upbeat songs that balance the more serious and mysterious tracks on this album, being fun to listen, dance, and sing along to. In fact, “My Down-to-Earth Lover” feels like a dedication to the fans, a sort of thank you letter, which makes the track even more endearing. “Deadly Diminuendo” is as dark and gloomy as it can be, with somber cello lines adding gravity to the lyrics, while the guitars are heavy and the vocals are sorrowful. Rounding up this album, “Lilith be Gone” is sassy and quite tongue-in-cheek, but the orchestrations and delivery are top notch.

BLACKBRIAR has always had a knack for creating mysterious and quirky pieces of music and “The Cause of Shipwreck” sees them taking their vision a step or two further. With space enough to explore their versatility, originality, and creativity as musicians, BLACKBRIAR has crafted an album that not only significantly expands their sound but also solidifies it, grounding it firmly at the crossroads of symphonic metal and Gothic metal. Boosted by a polished production courtesy of Joost van den Broek, the details and flourishes of their compositions shine through and every aspect is well balanced, making “The Cause of Shipwreck” a masterfully crafted cinematic and highly atmospheric listening experience.        

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

  1. Confess
  2. Weakness and Lust
  3. Through The Crevice
  4. The Séance
  5. You’re Haunting Me
  6. Walking Over My Grave
  7. My Down-To-Earth Lover
  8. Selkie
  9. Deadly Diminuendo
  10. Lilith Be Gone

Lineup

Zora Cock – Vocals
Bart Winters – Guitar
Robin Koezen – Guitar
Frank Akkerman – Bass
Ruben Wijga – Keyboards
René Boxem – Drums

Label

Independent

Links

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