The Visit - Through Darkness Into Light
Self Release
Dark Chamber Music
5 songs (55' 4")
Release year: 2015
Reviewed by Andy
Surprise of the month

Ottowa-based The Visit is definitely a unique operation. A side project of Musk Ox cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, its debut Through Darkness Into Light, consisting of nothing but minimalist cello and vocals duo, provides a dark but beautiful atmosphere that has a lot in common with metal. The progressive way the cello is played here, combined with vocalist Heather Sita Black's emotion-laden vocals, makes this quite interesting to listen to.

Without This Flesh starts with hesitant string-scraping, moving through a smoothly-picked arpeggio to high-speed bowing. Black's singing is high, operatic, and vaguely ominous, mixed back behind the cello as if peeking out behind the notes. She never screams, everything is clean, but she is capable of putting a good deal of tonal range into the way she sings, from langourously dreamy to sharp and insistent -- even the wordless parts, which lesser singers can often make obnoxious, she handles fairly well. Weinroth-Brown veers off the beaten track with Offering, with Middle Eastern scales and intricate bowing work, even sometimes playing a stacatto "drumming" by judicious striking of his bow on the strings. After five minutes of mostly wordless singing and fast cello work, everything quiets down to a periodic, almost medieval slow strumming of single chords, with Black gently caressing the lyrics with her voice.

It isn't all soft whispering and introspection, though; in some ways, one might think of it as a neoclassical darkwave album with the electronic bits all shorted out. Given the fact that nothing's layered and there are no other instruments, the cello work had better be good, and it rises to this challenge and then some. The louder parts are thunderous and show just how loud one can make a cello without doing anything special to it, and Weinroth-Brown turns on a dime between quiet, tense passages and storms of intricacy and power. And the sounds he can extract are impressive as well, producing the cello analog of palm mutes, the aforementioned "drumming", riffing, and synth. Through Darkness, my favorite track on the album, has a harsher edge on Black's vocals and even some bowing that sounds like tremolo picking, while Into Light, its quieter, sweeter successor, has a more relaxed feel, as though the previous song was a cathartic blast of fury leading to a final calm.

All that said, I did find this rather hard to appreciate at first. It's clear that The Visit has pulled off something very special here, more unique than other metal-aligned cello bands such as, say, Apocalyptica, but something this introspective and ethereal is best taken one song at a time in small doses rather than (as I made the mistake of doing) listened to in one sitting. Anyone who's into the milder atmospheric black metal, or who enjoys dark music at the edge of the metal spectrum are very likely to enjoy Though Darkness Into Light -- and I'd wager that anyone to whom a Tori Amos album is a guilty pleasure (you know who you are) will probably eat this one up.


Killing Songs :
Through Darkness
Andy quoted 78 / 100
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