Esben and the Witch weave dark drama into catastrophic sounds on molten adventure ‘Nowhere’

Photo by Christina Wenig

There are many different ways to be heavy in extreme music, though most of that usually falls within the volume at which a band plays or the bludgeoning force of the music. But that’s not the only way to make something weighty, and you don’t even need to be the most savage band in the world to achieve that. If your music can be forceful and pack in relentless drama, your heaviness cannot be questioned.

German post-rock trio Esben and the Witch record for a metal-centric label, but they themselves are not actually a metal band. But they’re heavy as hell, and just a simple excursion with one of their records will tell you that for certain. Immerse yourself in the band’s devastating fifth record “Nowhere,” and you’re immediately sent into the darkness, seeing dream sequences, tornadic nightmares, and rushing emotions. The band—vocalist/bassist Rachel Davies, guitarist Thomas Fisher, and drummer Daniel Copeman—certainly can push the intensity and the force of their music, and there are times on “Nowhere” that batter your senses. But that’s not their only game. They weave cinematic fury and a storming intensity into their music, led by Davies stunning calls that bring you right into the drama.

The record opens with “A Desire for Light” that unfurls slowly and sends the scent of ash in the air before Davies’ singing blends in, and the tempo and emotion take an upswing. The track gets heavier and louder as it develops, surging and giving off steam, with cold guitars raining down, and the track fading out. “Dull Gret” has bass slinking in like a ghost and Davies warning, “I will take what’s mine, for the hour has come, and now this is our time.” It’s cold and trickling later on before the track opens up and begins pounding hard, rumbling and building, with the tension thick as hell. The track smokes, with the band yelling, “Hey!” as the track chars and slips away. “Golden Purifier” has clean guitars, with vocals trading off and Davies leading as always. The track feels ominous, with a delicate path following, spacey keys spilling in, and moody sentiments poking through the clouds. But before things end, another power surge strikes before the track ends in a dose of calm.

“The Unspoiled” begins with sounds crashing down, feeling utterly doomy and scary. The drums echo as Davies sings about being surrounded by gardens, as Davies cries, “I sink slowly, give me a rope, don’t let me go.” Sounds swirl and collide, as the vocals soar into the stratosphere, before Davies once again pleads to be saved. “Seclusion” has drums tapping, the guitars bleeding in, and the vocals grabbing you by the chest. The tempo is plodding on purpose, as gentle and dreamy sequences ice your brain, and as we go, the music drips like a steady rain, bleeding out gently for good. “Darkness (I Too Am Here)” ends the album with a rousing intro, as the song gets louder and more aggressive, with the band pounding you. Davies’ singing is even more forceful, as the heat intensifies and the doom static crackles. The track sludges, with the song hitting a cathartic burst, crushing like thunder before comfort arrives. It all melts while the singing overwhelms, with Davies admitting, “I am tied to you,” as the track comes to a mesmerizing end.

Over a decade and five full-length releases, Esben and the Witch have proved to be an alluring, powerful act that’s heavier as a whole than many bands that rely on brute strength alone. “Nowhere” is more proof of that, and if you’re caught off guard by the band, your psyche can be permanently mangled. They’ve been one of our favorite bands ever since their early days on Matador, and since that era, they’ve become a consistent force for suspenseful power that can leave you in tatters.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album (North America), go here:

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