Wednesday, 23 April 2008

CD/Album Review: The Long Dead Sevens – The White Waltz and Other Stories

Review by Steve Dean

On my initial listening to this theatrical and macabrely beautiful work, the first thing that struck me was the brooding atmosphere forming around me as the gothic, but not entirely humourless lyrics began to tell their dark and baroque tale. So powerful is the aura evoked, one finds themselves drawn into the music in much the same way as one becomes inextricably involved in watching a well-plotted play. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this intriguing work finds itself being adapted for the stage at some time in the future.

Written mainly by vocalist Nick Cliff, guitarist and supplier of backing vocals Paul J. Rogers and violinist/pianist Jenny Hames, but with vital contributions from bassist Ian Turner and drummer Nicolas Hames - the latter four playing other instruments besides (including a boat propellor!) - the skilfully arranged songs contain nothing but excellent musicianship. The album also features guest backing vocals by Sarah Miller and the Cantemus Chamber Choir. Baritone Nick Cliff’s compelling, almost narrative voice suiting the whole collection perfectly..

The opening number ‘Pigface’ has a ensnaringly sublime slide guitar riff from Ian Turner, also responsible for the natty banjo picking on the Country & Western influenced ‘Mother’s Son’ - a song concerning the not-oft-discussed subject of filicide - while Jenny Hames’ lugubrious violin in the creepy ‘Our Lady Damned’, pulls and tugs at the most melancholy of one’s emotions. The pair can also be found executing an exquisite duet as Nick Cliff demonstrates a superbly ballsy blues voice in ‘Seven Levels’. In the very next track, the ethereal choir towards the end of the eerie ‘Church’ seem like they are seeking to conceal the sounds of something truly terrible happening in the background; while ‘The Black Waltz/The Red Waltz’ conjures up images of wraithes dancing inches off the ground within some gigantic ruined ballroom.

This album is a masterpiece and I don’t use that term lightly.

Produced and mastered in Berlin by the respected Boris Wilsdorf, who has worked with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and also The Tiger Lillies, amongst others, the album is receiving well-deserved attention from radio stations across Europe and America, including XFM in England.

The album is due for release around mid-May on Beta-Lactam Ring Records. Get a listen; you won’t experience anything like it anywhere else. Truly marvellous.

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