Sound — 8
Cellar Darling is a new band from Switzerland consisting of three former members of the Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie: Anna Murphy on vocals and hmm... hurdy-gurdy, Ivo Henzi (guitars and bass) and Merlin Sutter (drums). We might not know for sure what reasons were behind the decision to start a new band but perhaps the title partly reveals them: "This is the sound", as if Cellar Darling wanted their former band to sound like this. Granted, with a dozen of musicians folk metal bands usually feature the disagreements over the direction a band should go increase exponentially. Especially, if the band leader blows pipes full-time. Literally. :)
With this in mind, the division of labor on "This Is The Sound" is telling. The three permanent members form the core of the sound with only guitars, drums, Anna's voice and, of course, hurdy-gurdy. Pipes and violins have been outsourced. These guys should know their place in the metal hierarchy, shouldn't they? The result is mainly guitar-driven music (check out "Black Moon," "Hullaballoo" or "Starcrusher") supported with piano ("Six Days") and violins ("Challenge," "Water") where necessary.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics on the album are very typical to folk or pagan music. The texts as well as song titles feature constant references to nature:
"Cover me with snow / Freeze me to death..." ("Avalanche");
"Fire was my faith / Earth you were my truth / Air you gave me life /
As four we gave birth to the world..." ("Fire, Wind & Earth")
and many more. Everyone should decide for himself/herself if folk-themed lyrics suite this more aggressive style. Overall, the lyrics are dark enough for metal. Maybe only the title Hullaballoo is not really metal.
Anna Murphy is no novice to music and radiates confidence in every note, even singing to more aggressive music than during her tenure in Eluveitie. There's also no lack of good melodies.
Overall Impression — 7
The bottom line is that I was very surprised and pleased by what I've heard. I think the quality of songs is even, without fillers. This is not to say there're no highlights. Indeed, the first four songs ("Avalanche," "Black Moon," "Challenge," "Hullaballoo") are perhaps "more even" than others. From the rest of the album, I would recommend "The Hermit," "Fire, Wind & Earth," "Starcrucher," and "Hedonia" (not least because of a Swiss-German dialect).
But the best thing about Cellar Darling is that they fill the gap in the market of female-fronted metal bands. Basically, you either have choice between symphonic metal (*yawn*), growl-dominated death metal (Arch Enemy) or metalcore (Walls of Jericho), or weird sounding classic folk metal bands I don't really appreciate. The point is that there are only few acts with straight metal sound and clean female vocals. Cellar Darling embody what I've been looking for for quite some time.