Some time last year I searched the internet for female-fronted metal bands. The results included Nightwish, Dark Sarah, Arch Enemy and Cellar Darling. From those, Cellar Darling had me the most curious. I read that they had incorporated such curiosities as the hurdy-gurdy in their songs, and because I have a taste for lute and other baroque instruments I took a listen. I should have persisted longer, allowing the whole of “This Is The Sound” to make an impression on me. Unfortunately, “Avalanche” is all I remember now. I cannot say why, but One More Time’s song, “Highland” came to mind at the time. Despite what you might think, this is a good thing. It seemed to me that Cellar Darling were bringing something other than operatic vocals to melodic metal. I still have this impression, listening to “The Spell”.
Prepare yourself to listen intently to this album. A girl enters a stark, unforgiving world. She encounters Death, and falls in love. She weaves a spell to bind him to herself, and follows him into the underworld. I was not prepared for this story, and still I remain conflicted. Both Anna’s voice and the band’s music serve the story, and I am filled with a deep sorrow when I listen to a song like “Hang”. “Burn” is another favourite, and I agree that Cellar Darling have a progressive sound – one that is not necessarily driven by intricate guitar passages or changes in time signatures that are impossible to repeat. There is enough grit to satisfy the metalhead, but “The Spell” is so much more. I appreciate the peaks and troughs where, after you experience the dread of entering a netherworld with the character you are given reprieve by floating in the embrace of a halcyon sea. These impressions will stay with me for a long time.
As for the hurdy-gurdy, what an interesting instrument! At first I thought it’s like listening to someone playing the accordion up close, where you can hear the keys clicking. Then I thought I heard it bowed, like a cello. I would definitely like to know more, and I appreciate that Cellar Darling have made this unique instrument part of their overall sound. The flute passages are equally excellent. Listen to its haunting charm on “Death”, where together with the slowed pace and sustained chords it’s like Time itself holds its breath as our character and Death meet one another for the first time.
If you are fortunate enough, you may be able to purchase the digibook version with illustrations by Romanian graphic designer, Costin Chioreanu.
“The Spell” is an enthralling album, and scores 9/10.
Written by Karakul
4. The Spell
12. Love Pt. II
13. Death Pt. II
Anna Murphy (vocals, hurdy-gurdy, flute)
Merlin Sutter (drums)
Ivo Henzi (guitars, bass)
“This Is The Sound” (full-length, 2017)
“The Spell” (full-length, 2019)
Release Date: March 22nd. 2019
Record label: Nuclear Blast Records
Video for ‘The Spell’
Video for ‘Insomnia’
Video for ‘Death’