Cellar Darling - The Spell review


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Band: Cellar Darling
Album: The Spell
Release date: March 2019

01. Pain
02. Death
03. Love
04. The Spell
05. Burn
06. Hang
07. Sleep
08. Insomnia
09. Freeze
10. Fall
11. Drown
12. Love Pt. II
13. Death Pt. II

It's odd that Anna Murphy's druidic side should emerge more fully post-Eluveitie. Cellar Darling's debut pulled from the occultic weirdness that she had explored more with Lethe, Nucleus Torn, and other projects, lashing these macabre tendencies to a deceptively heavy rock skeleton. The Spell sounds tighter and more confident in exactly the way a sophomore album should.

This Is The Sound laid a blueprint, telling us quite literally that this is what happens when Anna Murphy, Ivo Henzi, and Merlin Sutter unite as a trio and head in their own direction, and it made for a curious experiment. What a show it put on: from then we knew what a powerful frontwoman and what a quirky sound and what enticing singles we could expect from Cellar Darling. The Spell doesn't let up on the duration or the intensity, but seizing on the entrancing side of Cellar Darling's sound leads to a more intense atmosphere and greater variation in songwriting. The lead instrument rotates frequently, some songs following the guitars more heavily, others the hurdy-gurdy, still others keys or vocals, and each song brings darker, more esoteric melodies and a creepier mindset that strays further and further from the often straightforward rock style of This Is The Sound. The Spell goes full bore into ideas broached by This Is The Sound, showing real comfort with the style Cellar Darling picked up there.

Anna Murphy's penchant for unusual vocal lines evolves further, her voice spanning octaves in short passages, covering a plethora of moods, straying in and out of falsetto with the power and fluidity that grant her such an arresting presence as a lead vocalist. Her delivery is hypnotic and sultry on "Death," a haunting whisper on "Burn," and on "Fall" the kind of happy choir I'd expect to hear layered by Anneke van Giersbergen on a Devin Townsend song. "Death" also introduces flute to Cellar Darling, covering a bleak, doomy digression with a colorful solo that, like much of Cellar Darling, strays very close to the realm of incongruity; The Spell keeps a fine balance on the razor's edge of horror. There's something rather uncanny about the band's atmosphere, something benignly bizarre on the surface and quietly eldritch underneath. Whether it's the feral wildness in Murphy's persona that can't always be subdued, the inherent archaism of the hurdy-gurdy, or the sinister twists of the half-rock/half-melodeath riffs, Cellar Darling has a threatening hidden darkness constantly leaking out and waiting to explode wholesale.

Yet next to "Pain" and "The Spell" are curiously elegant and warm, piano-heavy songs like "Sleep" and "Love"; they are, perhaps, hopeful in a postapocalyptic sort of way, in keeping with the tenor of The Spell as a whole, but indicative of the multifarious textures at this band's fingertips, merely awaiting the call to service. Cellar Darling strikes me as a burgeoning avant-garde band still experimenting with new ideas through a familiar rock/metal context, taking calculating steps into unexplored sounds before leaving ground entirely. The ready accessibility of tracks that preceded This Is The Sound has fallen aside so that The Spell can foster its weird tendencies, replacing the singles with strange dirges that twist and wind like vines and creep with ritualistic vocals (as much as I love "Avalanche" and "Challenge" and "Hullabaloo," I think it's "Death" that really completes my picture of this band now). I'd love to hear greater use of the flute and keys (and, of course, hurdy-gurdy) in the future, but Cellar Darling has already reached success with its adventurous aesthetic.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 8


Written on 19.03.2019 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 2   Visited by: 134 users
20.03.2019 - 03:18
Great review. I really enjoy the singles and I'm glad to hear it's a consistent album all around!
09.04.2019 - 11:26
I'm half way through this album and I'm starting to be in awe of it. I wasn't expecting much, the first one blew me by and it's a shame, knowing how talented Anna Murphy is (just look at Lethe's debut album). Moreover, prog tag on this album made me cautious. But this, this is just great. The sound on the album is a tad muffled but the songwriting is exceptional. And what I found curious is that Anna sounds quite a bit like Anneke van Giersbergen on "Insomnia." Go figure.

No friends for playing games
No foes who scorn my name
Computerized machines of steel and rust
No friends in my house on Mars
No foes in my house on Mars
I was born in my house on Mars
I will die in my house on Mars
-- Ayreon - My House on Mars

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