By: Owen Coggins
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Released on August 19, 2016 via Prophecy Productions
After an EP from 2014, Darkher summons a full length album of sombre but powerful evocations. For the first track, soft murmurings of gently scudded strings creep across the stage, setting the gloomy scene for the first shard of vocal light to cut through, like a dangerously sharp glass fragment, in the following song. Over the grey atmospheric wisps, a faint guitar line appears, a distant chime in heavy wind. Then, after a few hints of voice at the edge of hearing, the full reverby, echoey drama of Jayn H. Wissenberg’s voice comes in, conjuring breathy curls of lyrics about hollow veils and falling skies around what becomes surging doom noise.
‘Moths’ continues in a similar vein, with tinkly acoustic guitar, wispy multi-tracked washes, and (perhaps slightly formulaic) lyrics about epically doomed emotions. But at the line “I want to live, not be afraid,” the chord change kicks in just at the transition into the final word, convincingly melting musical anxiety into assurance before the same trick is repeated, with slightly uneasier implication, when the sonic transformation matches the lyric shifting from ‘embers’ into ‘flames.’ ‘Wars’ then has a great pulsing, droning monotony, then joined by the album’s most energetic drumming. In the second part of the track, the doom takes over, with the vocals whirling in high-pitched frenzies in the background. Bits like these are good to see, as with Rose Kemp’s music (with which this bears undeniable affinity) since they’ve recognised when to let their guitar power take over rather than sticking rigidly to a pretty-voice-with-incidental-heaviness template.
Something of a centrepiece, ‘Buried’ comes in two parts, the first a quiet couple of minutes, desolate and lonely in clearing a space for what follows, the most concentrated, developed, and intriguingly orchestrated piece on the record. For part two, smoking tentacles of lush but ominous strings unfurl, reminiscent of the beautiful but uncanny soundtrack works of Angelo Badalamenti in City of Lost Children, or Javier Navarrette for Pan’s Labyrinth. There’s a similar dark fairytale aesthetic here, mixing childlike wondrousness with an equally childlike sense of twisting horror, far weirder than what the grown-ups might imagine they fear. This is a short prelude though, and we soon get the crashing tides of distortion, the heaviest moments present on the record. These then drop out, and the echoey voice, in a halting but insistent verse, draws us close, ready (or not) for the riff entries which punctuate the remainder of the song with powerful blasts amongst the careful violin scratchings and swirling tendrils of sound.
The final two tracks have a sort of feeling of departure, the ending of ‘Forgeone’ in particular evoking the industrial rattling fade of an underground train exiting through a tunnel as you stand alone on the empty platform. The last track, ‘Lament’ quietly sets out another haunting melody over a platform of acoustic picking and skytrail soaring notes. And then the album is over, a final smouldering curve of smoke escaping from the embers of a strange and intriguing fire.