16 Apr 2022 - Knut
Ethereal Doom | Prophecy Productions | Release date: 15 Apr 2022
Darkher. What a name for a band! That was my first thought when I saw it on bandcamp in 2014. It simply shows that this is on the gloomy side of things and that a woman is behind it. I bought the EP before I heard it and I was not disappointed. In 2016, Jayn Maiven, the artist behind the project, released the first full-length and took her music further. And now our musical journey alongside Jayn continues in the dense fog over moors by a coast towards the ocean with flickering light sometimes piercing the fog.
Darkher´s music has often been likened with Chelsea Wolfe and Loreena McKennitt and even Portishead. And rightly so. But now, with this new album, I for one am thinking more of bands like Five the Hierophant and Cultro. Not because the take on the genres or music is any similar, but because of the visionary and imaginative inventiveness of the music. Darkher has widened the scope the project operates in, unafraid of pushing expectations aside and creating music that is quite undefinable at the same time as it is based on the Doom things of the musical spectrum.
To fulfill her musical visions the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jayn Maiven has invited musicians to join and implement the songs she composes while she also records, engineers, produces and mixes the album. She has brought in three cellos and a violin on this album to develop the music with her guitar and bass work and Christopher Smith´s drums.
One is shown how remarkably good this work is when being drawn in by Maiven´s ethereal vocals over the deep and dark cellos in the first song ”Sirens Nocturne”. The soundscape builds up, embracing the angelic voice like fog rises from a damp moor creating beautiful dark sonics until a lone and powerful cello ends the song and a shamanic bass drum makes the transition to the next song, ”Lowly Weep”.
The voice rises over the deep drums with synths, the ever-present cellos accompany the vocals singing ”This fire will burn/And never die”. An immense doom-laden ethereal soundscape rises up from the cellos, the voice shining through as the sonics slow down and widens up to the seabed overlooking the endless ocean. The thundering, bass-driven heavy sonics are back with synths emanating rays of light through it. The dark sonics are dragging the light synth behind and the music floats in a dark valley of shadows before it all fades away. The cellos take us to the next song, ”Unbound”, which is a short song dominated by acoustic guitar over the saddened cellos accompanying the clear, warm and longing vocals.
The acoustic guitar follows into the next song, ”Where the Devil Waits” and the vocals drift further along with this song uttering the lines ”Here I bury the storm/ In blinding light/ Here the sorrow is gone/ In the cold of morning”. It is not only the music that conjures up the mood, but also the lyrics that follow the music and amplify it. This song might be the closest to earlier folk-like songs the band has, as it evolves with acoustic guitars and strong vocals. Everything is embraced by warm and delicate sound effects from the synth and the use of wordless vocals. The string instruments metamorphose into a longing slow melody towards the end.
The sonics fade in below the wordless voice before it glides over to drums, bass and guitar in slow funeral march tempo when ”Love’s Sudden Death” evolves. The near whispering vocals rises with the lines “Bring the fallen stars/ Heaven has sent/ Before the light cascades” - which also could be a description of the atmosphere surrounding the album. The tempo remains slow throughout the song, but all around it the soaring synths and the vocalizing embrace it until strings end the song accompanied by a fuzzy guitar sound.
The ever present vocalizing continues in ”The Seas” as it rests between acoustic guitar strings before it changes to words slowly singing ”Hidden in the soul/ Tides they weave/ In dreams long ago/ Taken from my sleep”. The sonic rises up with a beautiful cello accompanied by a choir. The foreboding undercurrent of the cellos are extremely effective to evoke an eerie soundscape. The song drifts darkly forward like long waves on a dark still sea surface.
On ”Immortals”, shimmering sound effects introduce an acoustic guitar and strong vocals between the multi-layered sonics as it is describing the long slow waves. Bass drums take over and slowly push the song forward when a distorted guitar takes a prominent place between the gloomy sound. The instruments come together to build a somber crescendo, the multi-layered music floats in many directions but is called back by a clean guitar at the end.
A somber and slow piano opens the last song ” Fear Not, My King” and is soon joined by the low pitch of the cello sound supporting the ethereal vocals. Driven by slow drumming, the song floats in a dark many-layered gloom as if it exists in a deep valley of shadows until the cellos and piano take over to end the album. The cellos are now strangely reminiscent of Wolfang Tiepold’s work with Klaus Schulze a long time ago. And that might also be suiting as the electronic ambience on this album owes a lot to the German giants of the 80s.
Jayn Maiven´s words that close the album are the best guidance how to listen to this album: ”The more I close my eyes/ The more I see/ We are guided”. Get immersed in the whole album in one sitting. And for those of the listeners who marvel at beautiful designed editions of the album, take a look at the merch page on bandcamp.