When a critic does their first review, perhaps it is easy to overthink what that says about themselves as a critic. Perhaps it is easy for them to get overly analytical and to say “This is what makes a good/bad record for me”. It’s also easy for artists and fans to dismiss critics, even when they could potentially recommend underrated records. Today, I say, let’s put that all aside and focus on a new album that I am super passionate about. Starting my time at Pop Art Avenue off, we are going to take a look at the newest album from Echoberyl, “Mother Solitude and Other Dark Tales”.
It’s perhaps a little too obvious for even those that might not know who I am to assume my interest in Goth music and the scene as a whole, but my passion for the scene is something I have never got to truly elaborate on. I suppose being in a community fronted by people only lightly interested in The Cure or the Sisters of Mercy at best doesn’t help, but I think it generally has been something difficult to put in context. Modern technology has allowed us to connect with so many different sounds, and to define our personal taste in ways we could not imagine previously. It allows us to find new and old acts quite easily in the strangest of ways, and here we find ourselves with Echoberyl.
This French and Italian Darkwave duo has always been a standout right from the start. They blend traditional Goth Rock instrumentation with not just the typical Darkwave synth sounds, but cinematic textures and sounds. Their 2019 debut “Apparition” was solid and well produced, but lacked the ambition that defined their next record a year later, “The Awakening of a Mutant Girl”. Adriano’s adventurous sonic blend of Darkwave and Sci-Fi complimented Cecilia’s emotional vocal performances that reflected guest lyricist Ari Todero’s stories of aliens, marginalization, and finding where one belongs. I was not expecting the follow up to such a daring record to arrive a year later, but when “Salomé (Suffer Me)” dropped in June and the album was announced for October, I was more than willing to listen. So, what did we get with “Mother Solitude and Other Dark Tales”?
Well, for those that jumped to Echoberyl from “The Awakening of a Mutant Girl”, this might be a bit of a shocking transition musically speaking. This takes a much darker turn and for those whose experience with Goth music has come down to more ethereal releases like Drab Majesty, going to this record from “A Prey” or “Aliens” might be bit of a difference. However, for those that heard “Apparition”, or really those that remember the classic Goth bands that constantly adapted themselves across the years, this is the next logical step for the duo. While it is apparent that Adriano has been listening to the darker side of the Goth scene, Boy Harsher and S Y G Y Z Y come to mind, and even some touches of EBM in the grooves, there is a much more important element that is worth starting the discussion of this album’s production on: Horror.
It’s very apparent throughout this album that Echoberyl traded off the Sci-Fi touches in their previous album for a nod to classic horror. More specifically, we are looking at the 70’s. This isn’t always obvious, as the Darkwave elements are more omnipresent than any previous Echoberyl release. However, even the slight addition to these elements makes the album stand out that much more. The muted organs on the original mix of the title track “Mother Solitude”, the flutes on “Blue Ophelia” that work alongside the bell synths, and the atmospheric synths and orchestral hits of “Salomé (Suffer Me)”, these all work together naturally alongside the grooves and melodies here. Topping all of these though would be the fantastic synth strings on the club mix of “Mother Solitude”, which I much prefer over the original. (As a side note, the streaming version starts with the club mix, the original mix at the end, vice versa on Bandcamp. I personally prefer the order on streaming, as it is more sonically consistent with the rest of the album and gets the album going a lot more. I do get the idea of the original mix being an intro to the album though, but it works better as an end credits, personally.)
These would not work quite as well though without Cecilia’s massive upgrade in her vocal talent. While I like her vocals on “The Awakening of a Mutant Girl”, it was clear she was biting more than she could chew, and it would have sounded a lot rougher if not for the emotional resonance that tied together the themes of that record. That was not going to hold up for this type of record, and thankfully she improved for not just a better vocal by focusing on the mid range, but a darker vocal with a tighter edge. That’s not to say the harmonies on tracks like “Swamp King” and “Blue Ophelia” are not another upgrade, the latter being my favorite vocal here. That said, the darker vocals alongside the much needed vocal effects top off “Salomé”, “Mother Solitude”, and “Medea’s Revenge” rather tastefully.
While the vocals definitely were an upgrade; I think the lyrics are about where I expect Echoberyl to be, but that has always been a high point of the group. Ari Todero takes a guest writer’s credit once again on a few tracks here, but Cecilia holds her own when she needs to. The focus on horror allows them to put a hyper focus on short stories among each track, hence the title of the album. “Mother Solitude” and “Salomé” bring out the darkest side of lust, truly making for a balance of sexy and shocking with a rather memorable set of hooks. “Swamp King” and “Blue Ophelia” channel Echoberyl’s themes of loneliness in various manners of sadness that work together with the Goth Rock groove of the former and the ethereal synths of the latter. However, the real treat is “Medea’s Revenge”, which leans into the more maddening results of loneliness, telling the Greek tale of the sorceress Medea enacting her revenge on a woman whom her husband left Medea for, by sending a dress covered in poison. The twisted story together with the execution in the vocal performance and Adriano’s buildup in the production allows it to easily become the best track on the album. The crying turned into laughs in the end completes the picture, making a story fit for a gothic banger like this one.
If I had some minor complaints, it would be that some tracks do feel like they could have been a little better with some more time put in. “Au Bout De Ses Forces” and “La Dame En Rouge” are the biggest victims of this, but even these are quite good with the tight bass groove of the former and the hypnotic synth arps of the latter. I would have hoped for some of the same horror touches “Mother Solitude”, “Blue Ophelia”, or “Salomé” got, but if these are the low points, I am not going to get too loud. The two collaborators as well, Gloria de Oliveira on “The Siren and the Ghost” and Antipole on “Before Night Falls”, don’t add as much as I would hope. That is not to say either do good, I do like Gloria’s vocal alongside Cecilia and Antipole’s guitar style fits like a glove, but it can’t be helped to wonder if there could have been a little more. Still, these two would be highlights on an average Darkwave album, so I can’t get too angry.
Overall, Echoberyl have found themselves with another great album on their hands. The darker push and Cecilia’s improved vocals allowed for some phenomenal results. Some polish aside, this is one of 2021’s best Darkwave albums, if not its outright best. If you haven’t checked an Echoberyl release yet, this is a great start, and even a great record to give the depths of Darkwave a try. Let’s start off high this time around, feeling a strong 8 to a fragile 9.
Best: “Medea’s Revenge”, “Salomé (Suffer Me)”, “Mother Solitude (Club Mix)”, “Blue Ophelia”, “Swamp King”
Worst: “Au Bout De Ses Forces”