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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: Sidhe - Contenebrat

Sidhe is a melodic pagan rock band with gothic and doom metal influences from Italy. Its name, a reference to Celtic mythology, is a clear indication of the band’s sources of inspiration, with Wicca and witchcraft as the focal points. Officially the band was formed in 2005, but after releasing a demo in that same year and a few shows in 2006 and 2007 the band went into hibernation only to awake in 2011. With that awakening a few changes took place. The use of keyboards is abandoned and a few line changes are introduced. With success, because in 2012 their first full-length release called ‘She is a witch’ sees the light of day which now finds its successor in ‘Contenebrat’, which is Latin for ‘Darkness’. The band currently has four members, each with a very specific task according to themselves:

Tytanja: Bewitched vocal melodies
Rob: Baritone heavy guitar riffing
Vins: Ultrasonic bass lines
Mike: Explosives slow-tempo rhythm

The album opens with ‘Confessione’, a song that actually got me worried that either the files I had sent to me were the wrong ones or the band’s description of their musical genre was far off. It has a completely different vibe than the rest of the album, despite the moody intro. It has Metallica-ballad-esque guitar work at times and both the vocals themselves as their atmosphere in it are quite flat compared to the other songs. Thankfully it proved to be a false start, because the next song, ‘Contenebrat’ hits the right note, both in musical and atmospheric aspect.

Enter darkness. Not pitch black, terrifying darkness, but darkness nevertheless, in moderation. Tytanja starts in haunted whisper mode, justifying the ‘bewitched vocal melodies’ I mentioned earlier, and even though that doesn’t last, that bewitched feeling more or less remains throughout the song. It’s clear Tytanja is at her best when a song calls for a more mystical atmosphere. In fact, the same can be said from the other members. Where I got the idea they all were far from their comfort zone in ‘Confessione’, I never got that idea in ‘Contenebrat’. The guitar work is atmospheric, solid and varied and the rhythm section is particularly distinct. Moody, sometimes haunting parts are alternated with brighter, even bombastic, more up tempo pieces. A great song, well worth being the title song in my opinion.

Having such a great song so early in the track list could pose a problem, because it might set the expectations unreasonably high. Succeeding a masterpiece is never easy, but the next couple of songs, ‘Guardian woods’ and ‘ Hekate’s wheel’, actually do a good job doing just that. Solidly played, strongly composed, there’s no doubt these too are good songs. Next up is ‘The land of the young’, a song that, to me, seems to be a turning point in the musical story of this album. It might very well be me, but where this song still has a relatively positive vibe to it, the rest of the album, apart from the sweet, folky ballad ‘Leanan Sidhe’, invokes a more occult, somewhat desperate feel within the listener, culminating in the massive ‘Seven gates’ and the heavy epilogue ‘The spell of the spider’.

Sidhe’s music is tough to describe and impossible to place in a specific genre, which is just as well, since I like my music genre-defying, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Their rock has various metal influences, with doom, gothic and folk as the most distinctly audible. Add to that some occultism, a bit of darkness and a handful of mysticism and you have pretty much described what you get when you give this release a spin. Music-wise it’s solid and varied with the emphasis on the guitar work one moment and on the drums or bass lines the next without favoring the one over the other overall. The vocals are an interesting subject here. I don’t know if it is intentional, but Tytanja sometimes seems to have trouble reaching the right pitch, bordering being out of tune, but for some reason that is actually quite fitting, even adding to the mysticism. So, no complaints here. ‘Contenebrat’ is a good album, well worth your attention and time.

Written by Henric van Essen

Sidhe Official Website
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