Faith and the Muse
The Burning Season
2003
C



he’s Faith, she’s the Muse; they fight crime. If by ‘fight crime’ you mean ‘write some goth tunes’. Which I do. Break out the chainsaw guitars, grab that moonlit maiden with the sultry voice and the stars in her hair, flick through your Usbourne Guide to Classical Mythology and get used to seeing the word ‘ethereal’. A lot. An extremely simplistic critique, of course, but those are the essentials. This album may range in tone from pseudo-punk to 1940s jazz, but the core principles always remain; lurking behind the curtain and sternly poking any players who stray too far off-message. Naturally, I’m a sucker for every single velvety part.

There’s a lot of pointless tat out there, mind you. It’s not all that tricky to churn out a few songs called “Dripping Flesh of the Eternal Cyclops (Revisited)”—and everyone looks better with a little more eyeliner. Still, this problem plagues every genre. It only takes a few crazed, flesh-eating zombies to tarnish the reputations of the rest (by and large peaceful folk, who keep the brain-based-foodstuffs economy ticking over quite nicely). But (William) Faith and the Muse (Monica Richards) know their stuff. Musicians first, amusing gothic trappings second—that’s how it works.

So although you fear the clichéd worst when the tracklisting contains a cover of “Willow’s Song” from The Wicker Man (pagan religion—check, cult film—check, ‘darkness’—check), it all turns out quite beautifully. Thanks, in no small part, to Monica’s perfectly judged singing voice; never too softly-softly-whispy-fairy nor overly bless-our-pagan-masters, it carves the correct path between the twin peaks of innocence and seduction. Whether swirling amidst the shoegazey mix of “Boudiccea” (reference to infamous British warrior queen—check) or crawling all over the sleazy nightclub vibe of “Gone to Ground”, her vocals are consistently delectable.

The musical accompaniment ain’t half bad, either. Loosely dividable into the louder, menacing ones (“Sredni Vashtar”, “Prodigal”) and the slower, floaty ones (“Whispered In Your Ear”, “Visions”), The Burning Season delights in merrily hopping between these styles. In the main, it is the more aggressive numbers which hold together most convincingly. Aside from the cathedral splendour of “In The Amber Room”, too many of the slower numbers wander off into the ill-advised territory of half-hearted trancey beats. Whilst being pleasant enough, these tended to merely get me dreaming wistfully of the kind of ferocious drive that opens the record on “Bait & Switch”.

If you’ve ever been spotted wearing some elbow-length bits of lace, the chances are you’ll find something quite magical to relate to here. Even if you haven’t, Faith and the Muse have created an album with the necessary appeal to reach (perhaps with bony, searching fingers) outside the genre forced upon them by... err.. lazy reviewers (apologies there). Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have to use up my gothic adjective quota for this review: ethereal, ethereal, ethereal.



Reviewed by: Peter Parrish
Reviewed on: 2004-04-30
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