The first thing to remember, right before you play this album is that it must be judged on it’s own merits and is nothing to do with Eluveite. Just because the three members, Anna Murphy (vocals, hurdy-gurdy), Merlin Sutter (drums) and Ivo Henzi (guitars and bass) were important members of the Swiss Folk Metal stalwarts doesn’t mean any of that band is automatically carried forward into their new band. That was then, and as far as these three are concerned, this is very much now. I say this just as much for me to remember as to try and be informative.
Cellar Darling have already crafted their own sound mainly due to Anna’s unique voice and vocal approach, as well as the ingenious and modern use of the usually traditional hurdy-gurdy. The band use it as you might use keyboards maybe – to back up the sound, accentuate a melody, or to carry a riff/hook on it’s own, tweaking it’s traditional sound to fit easily into the modern metal sound Cellar Darling are creating. It’s a sound that draws from markers laid down by bands as diverse as Lacuna Coil, Paramore, Stream Of Passion, Halestorm or Evanescence (who the band have bagged an upcoming support slot with!). There’s a huge emphasis on balancing modern heaviness with catchy melodies as well as incorporating dark undertones and quirky arrangements (‘Six Days’ for instance has a particularly creepy, sinister vibe to start, but diffuses things with some enchanting flute and a progressive leaning).
There’s no summing up Cellar Darling with one track and I’ve a feeling as the band grow they won’t be summed up with just one album either. There is a palpable yearning to diversify and whereas tracks like ‘Avalanche’ and ‘Challenge’ will hook you in immediately, the band cleverly give as much emphasis to unexpected and less immediate works like ‘Fire, Wind and Earth’, the epic ‘Hedonia’ and the aforementioned ‘Six Days’. The guitar is heavy when needed, sporting a very modern style, but fades away and changes when the mood requires it. The drums drive the songs as well as I would expect from a drummer of Merlin’s fantastic ability and the rhythms are good and varied. There’s moments of orchestration, keys and some traditional instruments alongside that innovative use of hurdy gurdy. Anna is a vocalist unleashed, experimenting with cleaner tones as well as further exploring her range and power – along with the thought provoking lyrics is certainly the albums crowning glory.
It’s rare that a large portion of a band can depart and form a new unit that has so little in common with the band they left, but Cellar Darling are sailing brand new waters. I’m sure if they manage to carry with them a few Eluveitie fans then that’s great, but this is a band that demand to be judged on their own terms. No baggage, no regrets, just moving forward. These songs wouldn’t have worked at all in Eluveitie, much better to free themselves from what they saw as a constricting environment. This is the best possible result for everyone concerned, and that includes us, the lucky ones who can enjoy both!
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)