My acquaintance with the Amber Asylum collective goes right back to their Frozen In Amber debut from the days when Terrorizer often reviewed such off the beaten path music as this, Diamanda Galas or weird Estonian early music groups playing Sabbath songs translated into Latin and played on mediaeval instruments (Rondellus). Besides members lending their highly accomplished talents to a variety of bands more common around these parts such as Neurosis, the neo-classical melancholy of Amber Asylum has always been a distinct, delicate but intense experience over twenty odd years and (I think – I appear to be missing one) seven albums including this their first for six years.
Here we have Fern Lee Alberts on bass, Sarah Rosalena Brady on viola, Kris Force on synth, violin and voice, Becky Hawk on drums and voice and Jackie Perez Gratz on cello; all melding and mixing to offer, I think, a very feminine voice with all the facets and depth that implies.
Strings dominate as you would expect from that line-up and if, like me you are generally unfamiliar with the individual voices of violin, viola and cello Sin Eater is an excellent education as the orchestration is perfect at highlighting the individual sounds. There is a dreamlike quality to this album even on rare moments like ‘Tot’ where these drum and bass instil a driving energy and ominous cloud to the journey; a cathartic approach seeking a cleansing that only a Sin Eater can provide. We have melancholy and reflective thought, a sedate drift to music that falls like layer upon layer of silk. The vocals are simply beautiful when they come; pure, rich, rounded and yet cut you to the core with a word. Passages of isolating, echoing noise envelop you and Amber Asylum take you by your hand along these strange and dark places, voices whispering and calling as you pass by unseen. You need time alone to investigate these hallways and catacombs, to be allowed to wander simply listening and feeling and with a perfect touch Amber Asylum afford you this. It is a beautiful, complete work which conjures a crepuscular world of lamplight and shadow, considered steps and utter stillness. It is not the safest journey you will undertake but it is one of the heart and soul and should be embraced.
Neo classic, post-rock, dark ambient; whatever label you like. Amber Asylum are like drifting in a luxurious candlelit pool of perfectly warm water; immersive, supportive and as you allow them you are slowly but inexorably pulled into their current and into the journey. Let the ladies take you; they have so much to show you.