ALBUM REVIEW: Esben And The Witch – Hold Sacred

5.0 rating
Esben And The Witch - Hold Sacred

Formed in Brighton in 2008, Esben And The Witch (their name comes from the Danish fairytale Esben Og Troldheksen) has been releasing dazzling, beautiful music for the past fifteen years. On this new record, their sixth, the band works their magic again with an intricate and highly personal collection of songs.

Recorded in Germany, Italy and France with the pandemic as a frightening backdrop, the album documents the uncertainty of those times with deep wonder and creativity. There aren’t any drums on the record; it’s all very minimalist yet remains atmospheric and euphoric.

Vocalist Rachel Davies has a voice sent from the heavens; you can get lost in her vocals’ dark embrace. Hauntingly beautiful, sometimes it feels like she’s travelling at a different speed to the music set in the background, yet they both arrive at the same destination.

The songs feel incredibly personal, and themes of mental health and vulnerability flicker through the speakers; it’s a very brave, open and honest experience that you must really immerse yourself in. ‘The Well’ centres around depression yet remains hopeful, with beautiful melodies and synths creating a wall of sound that you can totally get wrapped around.

‘Fear Not’ reminds me of the band Daughter; I can hear similarities between Davies and Elena Tora; they are both treading the same path in how open to their emotions and passions move their soul to create such glorious moments.

The ambient sounds continue to grow through the record, the trio (completed by Thomas Fisher and Daniel Copeman) have always pushed boundaries, and by stripping back numerous layers, they’ve done so again. ‘True Mirror’ allows the listener to breathe, and the gospel-like backing vocals that drift in and out elevate the song.

‘A Kaleidoscope’ delicately blends shoegaze and folk; it’s a song being reborn, about being at peace with one’s self. I’d love to hear this live; it would fill the venues it is played in with grandeur. ‘The Depths’ is about being guided to the ones we love “All my hopes and fears are dashed”, the tide and the moon and the waves crashing in, the midst glittering, you won’t drown, you’ll swim, no matter how heavy life gets. If you’re struggling, this song is for you; allow it in. In fact, let the whole record in.

Closing with ‘The Petals Of Ash’ with its vocals swathed repeatedly, the album slowly descends into the darkness. Esben And The Witch have created a volume of work that can take hold of your uncertainties and struggles and keep them at bay; as minimalistic as it sounds, ‘Hold Sacred’ carries significant weight. Never has an album title felt so apt. Hold those you love sacred, and hold this album sacred too.

Xsnoize Author
Stuart Evans 13 Articles
North London born but now living in Norfolk; I have a true passion for music. Favourite artists would have to include Manchester Orchestra, Idlewild, Gang Of Youths, Phoebe Bridgers, Sharon Van Etten and Just Mustard. I enjoy a craft beer and support Tottenham Hotspur for my sins.

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