The usual busy evening of live entertainment in Glasgow saw queues forming outside numerous venues in the city centre. Joining the line outside Audio for Cellar Darling, it was clear that either we, or the fresh-faced teenyboppers, were in the wrong place. A quick scan of the remainder of the queue gave welcome sight of grizzled chops and black tour tshirts. Panic over, and with teenyboppers despatched to the correct venue, we shuffled inside and waited for the evening’s entertainment to commence.
We waited… waited some more… and then waited a bit more, before finally the opening act, Diamond Black, appeared on stage for what was their debut live gig. It’s not very often that you go to a gig and witness someone taking the plunge for the first time, but you wouldn’t have guessed that was the case with Diamond Black though. With the exception of a few hiccups with the sound during the early stages, which meant that vocalist J.I. Turunen (he’s Finnish but no relation to Tarja…I asked) was lost, you never would have known that they were popping their collective cherries. Founded by guitarist Ben Christo (of Sisters Of Mercy fame) and Turunen, Diamond Black are perfect for anyone still mourning over the loss of H.I.M. The music is dark, mysterious, and brooding, while retaining some catchy melodies. Bassist Adam Lightspeed pairs up well with drummer Jan-Vincent Velazco (who also plays with Pendragon), supplying the beefy backbone that allowed Christo and Turunen to work their magic on the front row. Current single ‘Sorrow’ is dark and melodic with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Billy Duffy guitar lick during the intro. It’s easy to see why it was chosen as a single; big and bold, with eargasms aplenty. ‘Ghost In The Glass’ is another worthy mention, although the sound gremlins were out in force for this one. Any bad willing to cover NIN will always get my attention. A decent set from a band that will only get better with each gig. Worth keeping an eye out for.
You could tell that Cellar Darling vocalist (and multi instrumentalist) Anna Murphy had spent a few days with her Irish relatives before this tour. Any time she spoke, the Irish brogue slowly slipping into her native Swiss accent, but it was the use of the word “fecking” when she was tuning her hurdy gurdy that gave the game away. A warm and engaging performer, Murphy was still suffering from Dublin the day before, and the subsequent ferry journey. Along with the other members of Cellar Darling, she seemed genuinely taken aback that not only had people came out to support the band, but they knew the words and were actually calling out for particular songs. As well as Murphy, drummer (and single malt lover) Merlin Sutter and guitarist Ivo Henzi were, of course, members of Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie. Less metalized than their previous outfit, Cellar Darling are a stunning blend of both traditional and folk rock. With a hurdy gurdy on stage, you can expect plenty of mystical music, but with Murphy on it, you will believe that it’s capable to shred on one!
With only the one album under their belts, the set is made up of tracks lifted from the incredible debut, ‘This Is The Sound’, an album that snares you in from the first listen, and having witnessed Cellar Darling when they opened for Delain last year, I knew that the songs sprouted wings when played live. From the opening bars of ‘Black Moon’, complete with chugging riffs from Henzi, to the hard-to-resist sheer infectiousness of ‘Hullabaloo’, these songs transfer seamlessly to the live arena. The fantastic wall of noise flowing from the stage is enhanced further as soon as Murphy moves to her hurdy gurdy, and showcases her talents in playing an instrument that looks very difficult to play. It’s no disrespect to the other guys on stage, but as soon as Murphy begins playing, all eyes switch to her.
The intro to ‘Avalanche’ (tailor made for the next season of Game Of Thrones), is a perfect blend of both old and new. As soon as Sutter brings the band in after the opening few bars, heads start to nod in time to the music. Henzi is laying down some mighty riffs, and although he doesn’t give much away, you could tell that he was having a blast. The same with ‘Six Days’; more of the heavy riffs and pounding drums from Sutter, who put in an almighty shift tonight. Murphy picks up the flute for a solo mid song. “A flute, on a Sunday, in Glesga?!….” laughs the big guy to my left! Murphy’s vocals are enchanting. Her range is incredible, equally at ease with the softer moments as she is with the screams. The inclusion of ‘Hedonia’, which is sung in Swiss-German, was a spi-tingling moment and a real highlight. After a few verses of Murphy on her own, she unleashes spiralling notes on the hurdy gurdy before the band gradually come in. Seven minutes of staggering musicianship that made the neck hairs stand on end. Throw in a spellbinding cover of ‘The Prophet’s Song’, that even the most ardent of Queen fans cannot pick fault with, and it truly was a magical evening.
Cellar Darling are something different; modern tales told using classic and mysterious instruments… oh, and don’t forget the shredding. There’s plenty of shredding… on a hurdy gurdy! The band have a few more live dates in the UK, and they will be back to play Download Festival in June. More information can be found here.
Review: Dave S.
Images: Dave J.