Dark folk trio Esben and the Witch are distractingly beautiful in the video for “Deathwaltz,” a single from their sophomore release. It’s just a bummer all the allure goes wasted on Wash The Sins Not Only The Face’s most trying cut. The rabid guitar and Rachael Davies’ rushed, moody vocals tempt a listener’s frantic switch to flip.
While listening to Wash for review, my roommate aloud wondered, “Dragon-slaying music?” She had a point. The cadences of many tracks—perhaps “When That Heads Splits” most of all—gallop pointedly, fast (but careful) like a king’s fleet of white horses, headed to defend the kingdom. Regal velvet percolates from the precipitative “Putting Down The Prey.” “Smashed To Pieces In The Still Of The Night” tosses another heap of kindling on the fires outside the castle raid. There is no way She-Ra didn’t abolish evil to “Despair” in some warped, anachromatic alternate universe.
Wash feels a little unpolished and nerdy in its fearless adoration for Renaissance fair vibes and ‘80s synth (acid-)washes. To boot, the band seem to be more than moderately nostalgic for the early to mid-2000s. The watery, brooding guitar on slow songs; rumbling, crater-blasting tom drums on the others—many riffs, breakdowns and light intermissions echo Tell All Your Friends-era Taking Back Sunday. But that’s rad.
Esben and the Witch have a little growing to tackle still. Although appealing in a fantasy-genre glutton way, the album feels a little one-dimensional. It still reminds me more of Evanescence than I feel comfortable with. Given the passion each member of the threesome visibly oozes, it won’t take much elbow grease to finish pulling it together. They are destined to make an awesome sound one day, just not yet.