The Swiss trio doesn’t waste any time. It’s been only two years since CELLAR DARLING‘s debut “This Is The Sound” came out and the band is already about to release their sophomore effort. And this second release is nothing less than an immersive experience consisting of a concept album, illustrations of the story and even an audiobook narrated by frontwoman Anna Murphy.
CELLAR DARLING tell the tale of Death and the Maiden with modern Progressive Rock.
The more I listen to “The Spell”, the better I can follow the story of the girl who falls in love with Death and is cursed to eternal life and so unable to join her beloved. CELLAR DARLING put a modern spin to the age-old art motif that reminds us of our own mortality.
I must admit when I first listened to the album’s first single, ‘Insomnia’, last year, my first thought was “what the hell happened to the CELLAR DARLING I know and love?!”. It felt long and not easy on the ears, it requires concentration. Lyrically, the song’s catchiest verses seem romantic at first, but when you learn that it’s an expression of deep desire for Death it takes a sudden dark turn:
“And I will not sleep until you hold me– ‘Insomnia’ by CELLAR DARLING
ForI cannot dream anymore
Of you and your absence so haunting
I won’t sleep, I
But it’s also that darkness full of beauty that makes this album so hauntingly pleasant. In general, “The Spell” has a more homogenous sound than CELLAR DARLING‘s debut album, which is natural, since the first record was a presentation of what the band can do (with a fitting title), while this album explores the narration of a single story. However, this record is quite experimental and offers a variety of styles while still staying on the storytelling task and true to the band’s now established sound.
The experimental character of the album is clear in the variety of sounds and instruments used, but especially in Anna‘s vocals. The singer explores her lower range with power, some parts remind me of 80’s Pop; sometimes there’s a Jazz-like use of her voice as a melodic instrument with harmonies.
On our podcast episode with Anna Murphy, she says that more and more people have been telling her she sounds like Anneke van Giersbergen. And although that was my opinion, too, in my review of CELLAR DARLING‘s debut, I only hear the resemblance in the third and latest single of the new record, ‘Death’. Otherwise, Anna keeps successfully developing her very own vocal style.
“The Spell” is a great piece of art but nothing for the radio stations.
Musically and thematically, CELLAR DARLING‘s “The Spell” is a fascinating work of art. But even after several listens, I fail to choose a few memorable highlights – besides the singles – that would stand alone outside of the storytelling context. The ethereal instrumental parts, like the flutes on ‘Death’ for example, make it hard for me to follow the choruses that otherwise invite to sing along. This makes the tracks too long to remember as a “hit song” like ‘Avalanche’ or ‘Challenge’ in their previous album.
That said, we don’t live in a world dominated by mainstream media anymore and therefore don’t exactly need radio-edits to be played everywhere. CELLAR DARLING have made “The Spell” cohesive and varied, dark and heavy, while also emotional and powerful. As far as my personal highlights of the record go:
- ‘Hang’ is very emotional and vivid – a definitive favorite while listening.
- Now that I’ve listened to it more carefully, ‘Insomnia’ is in my top 3.
- ‘Death Pt. II’ with its recollection of different moments in the album is the perfect ending to a great album.
- Fun fact about another excellent song, ‘Sleep’: the lyrics reference the moon as “him”, which comes from the German noun marker – otherwise the moon is female in most literature and mythology.
CELLAR DARLING – “THE SPELL” Tracklist:
- The Spell
- Love Pt. II
- Death Pt. II
I definitely recommend CELLAR DARLING‘s “The Spell”, especially as a whole package to attentively enjoy. Follow the story along paying attention to the lyrics – then the music gains much more meaning and beauty.
Are you a fan of CELLAR DARLING? Have you pre-ordered “The Spell” already? Tell us in the comments! You can
order “The Spell” from EMP in Germany.