Signing to Cleopatra Records, a well-known North American goth industrial imprint, they reissued a number of Gary Numan albums in the US at one time and are still the only label to have succeeded in officially licencing post-‘Autobahn’ material for a KRAFTWERK best of compilation in 1992 entitled ‘The Model’.
Like a mid-to-downtempo offering to Pagan spirits, ‘Commemorate’ combines misery with beauty, evoking confused but uplifting emotions of hope in an atmosphere where all is not quite as it should be… so real life then and very fitting with many isolated from the life they have previously known.
A debut album is effectively a relaunch, an opportunity to reach a wider audience but with the kudos that the long playing format accords. To that end, WITCH OF THE VALE have included the best material from their first three EPs and supplemented those eight tracks with four new songs and bookending instrumental themes. However, most of this previously released material has undergone some sonic fine tuning, but it’s all been fulfilled without altering the spiritual essence of the originals.
From their debut EP ‘The Way This Will End’, the unsettling ritualistic overtures and drone laden backdrop of ‘Fever’ and the textural rumbles of ‘Your Voice’ are threaded by an enticing high register gothique with folk inspired stylings. The poignant ‘The Way This Will End’ title song is included also, with a beautiful music box quality complimented by pensive strings that capture a wonderful melancholic airiness. It is all very sad but never depressing.
Of the new material featuring on this impressive debut, the ‘Commemorate’ title song provides the most intensely percussive flavour, throwing in industrial swoops and references to self-loathing in the manner of NINE INCH NAILS, but with a sinister feminine beauty. ‘Undressed’ sonically emulates any number of intros from Gary Numan’s apocalyptic ‘Savage’, although the soundscapes take a Nordic pop twist thanks to Erin Hawthorne’s treated delivery.
The brooding fatalistic doom of ‘Crash’ is offset by another angelic vocal that makes the words “I might be smiling but I hate you on the inside…” even more foreboding, while the clattering of a grandfather clock pendulum acts as a ghostly backbone to the eerily sparse ‘The Sky & The Sea’.
The rain swept ‘Death Dream’ maintains the solemn mood, while the four songs from the ‘Trust The Pain’ EP complete the commemorative picture. ‘Trust The Pain’ itself remains serene yet uncertain as ‘The Ghosts Won’t Know’ dresses gentle piano with a widescreen chill but with haunting harp-derived sounds for a divine celestial mood, ‘Suffocation’ displays an affinity with the understated Swedish songstress Karin My.
But as with its parent EP, WITCH OF THE VALE’s unusual gothic cover of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Gods & Monsters’ still stands out, transporting the gritty sleazy American original to the ominous location of ‘The Wicker Man’ for their most likely crossover recording.
In a short period of existence which has seen them open for ASSEMBLAGE 23, SOLAR FAKE, CLAN OF XYMOX and LINEA ASPERA as well as playing Infest 2019, their trajectory has been pointing up and the quality of this debut will ensure it will stay that way for a bit longer.
‘Commemorate’ is released as a download album by Cleopatra Records, CD issued on 20th February 2021, both are available direct from https://witchofthevale.bandcamp.com/album/commemorate-2
Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th December 2020