Blah Blah ex-Eluveitie Blah Blah Blah. Right, that’s that out of the way, no need to mention that again – Cellar Darling are 100% their own entity with a style of their own that has no particular resemblance to their former band at all. These three musicians are on their own path, seeing where it leads, ignoring genres and boundaries, ploughing their own Progressive Metal furrow. I reviewed their previous debut album “This Is The Sound” on these exact hallowed pages in 2017 and I knew on the day I submitted the review that more time would be needed to really appreciate and understand that debut offering. It started to gel a lot more over the coming months, but I do still find that debut a little awkward at times, maybe a bit rushed and direction-less in the writing – a band unleashed, but this time around everything is sounding cohesive and exactly as they intend!

It’s always difficult to know what a set of musicians have heard in their past, whether they have been influenced by any of the bands that seem to shine through in their sound – and given the background these three talented musicians had it could go either way, but I find Cellar Darling 2019 an enticing amalgam of the sound on their debut, mixed with Kingfisher Sky, Stream Of Passion and early Within Temptation. For the unfamiliar, Kingfisher Sky were/are an excellent Progressive Rock/Metal band with a female singer that, at the time of their first couple of albums – a time when you were expected to be “Gothic” if you had a female singer – bucked the trend expertly. Stream Of Passion were of course also progressively orientated, especially vocally, but with a more Metal direction. Within Temptation get a mention for the younger, more adventurous and experimental Sharon Den Adel’s gorgeous, carefree vocal delivery and fabulous tone – which Anna Murphy is now emulating in Cellar Darling.

Anna was never an average singer by any means, but for me the improvement, maturity and confidence she is displaying on this second release is almost breathtaking! The music is unrestrained, rhythmically diverse (Merlin Sutter is a world class drummer so that was a given!), unpredictably technical, yet charmingly melodic – it’s utterly beguiling! Crown that with those fabulous Anna Murphy vocals and the overall effect is at times mesmerizing. Sprinkled among this are the wonderful flourishes of innovative hurdy-gurdy (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d use!) and flute. The album comes with accompanying audio book & artwork to totally immerse yourself in the whole experience, therefore I am not going to analyse or dissect this release as the band have an experience planned for the listener that I don’t want to encroach on. It’s just personal opinion, but if I am being a tad picky, maybe I would like to hear a separate bass player as part of the band, because although Ivo Henzi is a great guitarist, expert songwriter and a damn fine bassist, a like-minded four/five stringer might just add another dimension to the band and free Ivo to be even more creative and inventive with the music?

I promise it’s the last time will mention the band in a Cellar Darling review, but I love Eluveitie, and the day these three jumped ship was a dark and worrying day for me indeed. But 3 years later Cellar Darling produce “The Spell” and it seems like such an inspired decision! How lucky we are to have this totally fresh, uninhibited Metal band in our midst, who exist just by a twist in circumstances that no-one from the outside could fathom or explain. Their debut was a promising start, but this…THIS is a band that are embarking on a journey into pure class. Well, I’m on board, and I’ve a feeling it’s going to start getting a bit cramped on here! We’re going to need a bigger boat…

(8.5/10 Andy Barker)