REVIEW: Charlotte Wessels – Tales From Six Feet Under Vol. II

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At this point, little and less needs to be said about Dutch vocalist Charlotte Wessels. There’s also no big need to name her former band, but for those few not in the know, she used to sing for symphonic metal unit DELAIN. This year she’s back with the second installment of her “Tales from Six Feet Under” albums, about 13 months after the release of the first part, thus continuing to share more songs originally written for her Patreon community. “Tales from Six Feet Under Vol. II” was released on October 7th, 2022, via Napalm Records.

Check out our interview with Charlotte here.

As was the case with the first part, “Volume II” again contains a selection of her favorite songs released for and via Patreon in the past year or so while showcasing her evolution as a singer/songwriter. Writing, recording, and producing a song a month cannot possibly be an easy feat but it proved fertile ground for, in this format, Charlotte Wessels could unleash her creativity beyond the constraints of a given genre and come up with songs about a variety of subjects, styled in a variety of ways. True enough, listening to “Volume II” is like sampling a box of chocolates (to paraphrase Forrest Gump), as each song has a different flavor, a different sound, a different vibe, a different atmosphere going for it, while still stemming from the same place. This, in turn, gives the album a sense of unity and balance across all ten tracks.

While the multifaceted soundscape of the album feels light, bright, and even ethereal in some parts, there are also some harder and heavier moments to anchor it. First single released “Toxic” is a great mirror of the album, offering an easy but intense listening experience of ambient sounds, guitar riffs, and throbbing bass, until some growled screams are heard that, surprisingly enough, fit rather well in the song’s build-up. If the album can be described as synth-driven pop-rock with melancholic undertones, the lyrics are a whole different matter altogether, adding emotional weight to the fold, superbly carried by her melodic voice. For instance, this track “is a direct response to the populism, greed, misogyny, and victim blaming that come screaming from our screens on a daily basis, and with the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade, it has sadly become only more relevant since its initial release on Patreon,” and thus can be seen as a sharp jab at patriarchy.

On that note, it is interesting that the album opens up with the synth-flavored and richly textured empowering track “Venus Rising,” a commanding title in itself – inspired by Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus – made even more commanding and powerful by the words “Watch Me” repeated throughout the song, either as a mantra or an invitation (or possibly both). One of the stand-out tracks is definitely folksy ballad “Against All Odds” where acoustic guitar mixes with her gentle vocals to create a dreamy atmosphere, while the lyrics talk about starting over. Atmospheric “I Forget,” which also features some melancholy cello lines by Elianne Anemaat and tribal-sounding drums, is not far from this soundscape, as both tracks feel fragile and delicate, especially when it comes to the vocals. Coming full circle, the album closes with the serene and tranquil “Utopia,” where Wessels’s voice feels ethereal and light, perfectly complementing the pulsating instrumental side. 

Not everything is just synths and vocals though, with symphonic-infused dramatic piece “Human to Ruin” and theatrical “The Phantom Touch” edging dangerously close to metal territory with their fuller sound, guitar riffs, choral and strings arrangements, and powerful vocals. It should be noted that Timo Somers mans the guitars on this album, hence the more in-your-face riffs and leads. All the while, “A Million Lives” flirts with alt-rock soundscapes, delivering one of the hookiest choruses and most intense rhythms on the album. Electronic beats are the heart of poppy earworm “The Final Roadtrip,” a complex track where Wessels makes good use of her range, delivering some high notes layered on top of a lower vocal melody for maximum effect, while bass and guitar keep a steady rhythm going in the backdrop. Melancholy “Good Dog” weirdly alternates between bursts of heaviness and beautiful synth melodies, not really knowing where it’s going or how to get there. The vocal effects and layering, while a general plus on this album, feel out of place in this track.

Feeling more like a cohesive album than just a collection of random songs put together, “Tales from Six Feet Under Vol. II” is a great display of creativity and imagination from an artist whose versatility is becoming not just her trademark style but also her greatest asset. The songs flow wonderfully together from the opening lines until the last notes fade into the ether and this fluidity, coupled with the diversity of moods, nuances, and textures presented throughout, gives the album great replay value. So, if you’re a fan of musical variety or genre-bending/genre-fluidity (whichever term you may prefer), and thinking outside-the-box in terms of songwriting, give “Tales from Six Feet Under” (both “Volume I” and “Volume II”) a listen.  

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

Venus Rising
Human To Ruin
The Phantom Touch
Against All Odds
A Million Lives
The Final Roadtrip
Good Dog
Toxic
I Forget
Utopia

Lineup

Charlotte Wessels – lead vocals, programming

Label

Napalm Records

Links

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