The Visit – Through Darkness Into Light: A Review by Stanley
A very special guest review by our pal Stanley.
Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, I need a break from Black Metal. When these rare (although becoming more common) instances occur, I seek music that is a far cry from corpse paint, flat-fifths and blast beats, but still evokes a similar emotional attachment. Music that is expressive, stimulating, poignant and ultimately rewarding. My favorite album of 2014 was Musk Ox’s Woodfall and it was via this release that I became aware of the supreme talents of cellist, Raphael Weinroth-Browne. His contributions, arguably the album’s highlights, sent me down the Bandcamp wormhole to discover what else he had struck his bow with. Thus, I discovered The Visit.
The Visit is a two-piece ensemble consisting of the aforementioned Weinroth-Browne and vocalist/lyricist, Heather Sita Black, and they are about to release their mesmerizing debut album, Through Darkness Into Light. It takes the “Most Aptly Named Album” award as during its fifty-five minute runtime, the listener is taken on an emotional progression from blackest lows to shimmering highs. So, banish your preconceived notions of what a cello and vocal pairing may sound like, and immerse yourself in The Visit’s genre-defying orchestrations.
“Without This Flesh” opens the album, engendering a false sense of security with its gently bowed notes, delicately plucked arpeggios and clear, vibrant vocals. Abruptly, the mood alters with unbridled intensity and in stark contrast to that which came before. The riffs are violent and abrasive, the vocals unsettling. After a brief respite, the sinister passage that follows is as close to aural darkness as it gets. It’s a bleak exploration of the chasmic depths where disfigured beasts are to be found, lurking in wait. Fortunately, there are also glimpses of understated beauty, radiating just enough luminosity to find a way out.
The second track, “Offering”, may be familiar to some of you, as in the past, I have taken every opportunity to sneak the video into various comment threads, whether pertinent or not. It’s one of the most spectacular live recordings that I’ve witnessed.
The song is peppered with evocative middle-eastern melodies, which allows Raphael to flaunt his dazzling skills. Various techniques are utilized with great effect to convey mood and feel, including plucking, tapping and the wonderful battuto, in which the strings are struck with the bow. This is how you play metal on a cello! And it’s not just the strings that are heavy. The stunning vocals, dripping with anguish, and mouthing the most ghoulish lyrics, would scare the bejeebers out of the dark lord himself.
“Offer to the fire
This seemingly endless pain
From the depths of the cavern
Where nightmare creatures gnaw on flesh
Ugly writhing thing, no light have you seen
Not alive, not dead
Hold onto the light
After the unrestrained maelstrom of “Offering”, “Cast Off The Veil” begins in plaintive tones, but even during the quieter moments of the album, there is an ever-present turbulent undercurrent that can rise up and crash down upon you without a moment’s notice. Up until now, what you will have noticed about Heather’s unique vocal style is that she is often content to vocalize her meandering melodies without actually using any words. In the context of The Visit, this method works as well, if not better, than using actual lyrics as it allows the mind to wander, unencumbered. “Cast Off The Veil” breaks this mold in that its intent is explicit. Bleak lyrics paint the landscape, but what follows is one of the most inspiring moments of the album, “Elation, Euphoria, Ecstasy”.
As the album progresses, it becomes more apparent that the duo excels in dynamics. Through Darkness emphasizes this point, juxtaposing the heaviest moments with the lightest and creating counterpoint between the subtle and the somewhat caustic segments. The section about three-quarters of the way through the song is crushingly heavy, and at times, it is impossible to believe that only one instrument is responsible for this density (vocals aside). Heather’s heartfelt cries provide urgency to the proceedings, allowing the tension to build before finally floating upwards, weightless.
Appropriately enough, after passing Through Darkness, Into Light begins in ecclesiastical style and you would be forgiven for thinking that you are attending a funeral mass. The choral-sounding arrangement, while alluring, is filled with grief and heartbreak. Heather’s angelic tones eventually interrupt the liturgy and the song shifts into a slightly more uplifting territory while still intimating poignancy. The song then takes on a clear trajectory from despondency to awe-inspiring, and while the song ends on the same somber notes that it began, this time, they exude calm and peacefulness.
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard an album quite like this, either musically or thematically, but what I do know is that it captured my attention and emotions, hook, line and sinker. In a world full of musical clones and bands trying too hard to be different, The Visit have managed to naturally conceive a wholly unique presence and sound that is majestic in its vision, scope and execution.
“The sky is streaked with red
At the horizon awaits death with one question:
“How will you spend your final days?”’
Big thanks to Stanley for stepping up and writing this review!