Having formerly made up a third of Eluveitie, Anna Murphy (vocals, hurdy-gurdy, multi-instruments), Ivo Henzi (guitar and bass) and Merlin Sutter (drums) have launched Cellar Darling, their new vehicle with which to explore “the spirit of the stories our parents told us before going to sleep” to the backing of melodic, if steady, metal.
The emergence of Murphy as primary vocalist is one of the clearest distinctions from their past; a key enabler in allowing the trio to pursue a more poppy direction, as is a less overtly “Metal” approach to their music, with Henzi’s guitaring primarily sedate and mid-tempo. The absence of Eluveitie’s ubiquitous (and oft annoying) pipes is a definite plus point, and, while there is an array of backing instruments to provide flavor throughout, Cellar Darling is a much less folky vehicle, sitting in a more central space, not a million miles away from The Gathering but with heavier, doomier guitars.
While This Is The Sound (Nuclear Blast) shows a clear demarcation from their past, and an establishment of a new identity, it is not without its flaws. Considering the experience of the protagonists, the production is disappointing, particularly when the heavier guitar parts are prevalent: muted and lifeless, a horrible mid-Nineties flat guitar tone. The second area for development sits, unfortunately, in terms the songwriting as songs oft come across as slightly awkward, with the quirky pop elements often misfiring and not quite hitting the mark; ‘Hullabaloo’ is underwhelming rather than understated, and the chorus of ‘Avalanche’ irritating rather than idiosyncratic.
Things haven’t quite come together as yet, but there’s plenty for Cellar Darling to work with. Murphy has a likeable voice and once the band are a step further into their development, the potential is there for this to evolve into an interesting project. Ramp up the poppiness, and tracks like the Occult Rock tinged ‘Black Moon’ could prove an interesting template from which to build.