Although ESBEN AND THE WITCH already got some attention as well in the underground as in more popular media, “Older Terrors” is my first real contact to this band. At first, I didn’t know what to think about this record. But after a few spins I grew fond of it. Because it is different. It is beautiful and doomed. It is reduced and widely open. It plays with contrasts. And it doesn’t fit any existing genre. ESBEN AND THE WITCH act similar to Fvnerals, Chelsea Wolfe or Sinistro, taking influences from different styles and blend them into an unique own sound.
So you will find wide, frisky and almost hopeful moments from post-rock as well as fuzzy walls of sound taken from doom or drone mixed together with reduced parts of (doom-) folk. Some turns happen suddenly within the songs, other developments are fluent. The only fixed component is the beautiful voice of singer/bass player Rachel Davies (which some might know for her contribution on the last album by Ultha). Frankly, her singing is just adorable. And it adds extra spice to the already interesting songs.
Best song of “Older Terrors” is “Marking The Heart Of A Serpent” which is a perfect showcase for all aspects that define this album. In the beginning, the track is very reduced and gloomy. The great vocal line and acoustic minimalism create an intense atmosphere. Sudden turns into more droning sound surprise the audience, interchange with more calm moments. But then the song becomes more psychedelic, gains tempo. A fantastic variety of stylistic elements that form an outstanding track.
But the other songs are not any inferior. “The Reverist” lives from extensive soundscapes and the opening “Sylvan” is as versatile as “Marking The Heart Of A Serpent”. Phenomenal harmonies and twists form a intense epic. “The Wolf’s Sun” shows again the more baneful side of ESBEN AND THE WITCH, playing with beautiful melodies and disturbing drones. A minimalist yet expressive masterpiece.
In the end it is totally irrelevant how you call “Older Terrors”. Although it has several influences, it is an intense and intelligent piece of art. Fragile, hopeful, massive and baneful. Reduced yet playful. Calm but with a lot of energy and psychedelic potential. It might be unconventional. But that does not lower the quality ESBEN AND THE WITCH delivers.