The departure of Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter, and Ivo Henzi from Swiss folk metallers Eluveitie has given some fans the best of both worlds. The new Eluveitie line up will be releasing a brand new album in August, and the trio of Murphy, Sutter and Henzi have formed Cellar Darling with this, their debut album, making quite an impression already. Cellar Darling rely on Sutter’s drums and the guitar work of Henzi to bring the metal, while the ethereal vocals of Murphy have more of a chance to shine without having to compete with the growls from Eluveitie vocalist Chrigel Glanzmann. The folk metal aspect is still evident, with heaps of hurdy gurdy from Murphy and string arrangements thrown in, but with only three members, it’s much more of a stripped back, simplistic approach. An approach that has exceeded all expectations.
The album kicks off with ‘Avalanche’, which hints at a Celtic connection with the atmospheric hurdy gurdy introduction, and the slow burning, hypnotic vocals from Murphy that burst into life when Sutter and Henzi crash in. It’s dark, mysterious and hugely effective as an introduction to Cellar Darling. ‘Black Moon’ is more instant, with a classic ‘chugging’ guitar intro from Henzi that is simple but very precise. The layered background vocals from Murphy are gorgeous, and who knew that a hurdy gurdy solo could be so good? This leads into ‘Challenge Me’, perhaps the most commercial moment on ‘This Is The Sound’… dreamy vocals from Murphy, and a warm guitar sound that envelops the listener. The guitar sound is crucial throughout. Never flash or overpowering, Henzi plays it cool as he constantly changes it up. ‘Hullabaloo’ features a nice groove oriented sound that sets the pace and allows Murphy to flourish, both vocally and instrumentally, as she peels off another solo, whereas ‘Six Days’, ‘The Hermit’ and ‘Fire Wind and Earth’ are way more riff-centric. The latter, especially, has a steady gallop about it, complete with stellar drum work from Sutter and and a headbang-inducing solo from Murphy!
On ‘Under The Oak Tree’, the band change it up again musically, with hints of prog metal in places. Sutter totally owns this one with his rhythmic pounding that impresses from the off. Murphy has always had shades of fragility and heartbreak to her vocal, and ‘High Above These Crowns’ really showcases these attributes. The poetic lyrics and huge melodies hint at a massive Zeppelin influence, and although it doesn’t hit the three minute mark, this is one of the highlights of the album. The seven minute epic ‘Hedonia’ is another. With a gorgeous introduction that those of us who listen to Gaelic music will purr over, ‘Hedonia’ is devoid of English language, and is like an old style musical suite, split into many different segments. It truly is a masterpiece.
Cellar Darling have provided one of the best debut albums of 2017, and the live dates with Delain later this year should be something special indeed.
‘This Is The Sound’ is available now on Nuclear Blast
Review: Dave Stott