Review: Esben And The Witch ‘Hold Sacred’

Having formed in Brighton in 2008, Esben And The Witch have now spent fifteen years working on their craft, and along the way they have released some truly magical music indeed. Staying low under the radar, the band have amassed a following, mostly of illusive types, who can appreciate the finer nuances that only a band such as this can capture so perfectly.

Esben And The Witch 'Hold Sacred'
Esben And The Witch ‘Hold Sacred’ Artwork

I know this to be true because I am one such type that fits into that demographic. I have a real soft spot for them, the music they create defies genres, and when I need the world to stop so I can get off for a while, Esben And The Witch is the perfect accompaniment while I calm my mind.

Hold Sacred, their new album, sees an evolution in the band, and over the course of the nine tracks, I am completely swept away by it all.

If you are unaware of them but read The Sleeping Shaman, then you may well be expecting a certain demographic and sound, but let me tell you, this isn’t your standard heavy, death tinged, stoner metal fayre. What this is, is an adventure into an ambient bliss, which will leave you completely transfixed within its spell.

As I’m writing this, I find myself wondering if it will polarise you, my dear readers, into a wanting to try, or wanting to avoid this album, based on who I give a round comparison to. Oh well, here goes anyways… In my opinion, the closest band I can aim towards Esben And The Witch sounding like is The XX. Not so much on the dance elements that The XX incorporate into their dynamic, but on the otherworldly ambient soundscapes, and stripped back muted musical passages.

There, I’ve said it, let’s move swiftly on….

Coming to the album itself, whereas usually I would dissect every track, break it all down into specifics, with an album such as this, it isn’t so easy. In part, it’s because with being minimalist on sound, it all kind of follows a similar dynamic, which makes for a harder reviewing experience altogether, well for me it is anyway.

Instead, what I was thinking I would do this time round, is give you an insight into how this album makes me feel, I guess on a more spiritual level and hope that you take something from it which will push you to look deeper at the band and take the plunge, into something which will enrich your life no end.

This is the pinnacle of heart-warming music that will calm your soul…

Even from the opening seconds of The Well, the album’s first track, there is no doubt just how overwhelmingly good this is going to be. Rachel Davies sultry vocal rolls in, and everything else disappears. As the accompanying instruments tentatively roll in, there is no doubt as to the focus. With a vocal which is both compassionate and emotionally warm, even these first few minutes are completely captivating.

This sense doesn’t ever let up throughout the whole album, and even while there are both slower, and slightly more upbeat moments, there is no other way than to get completely lost in the moment.

Track two, the perfectly entitled In Ecstasy, is just the perfect description for the whole album. There is a serenity to the piece, and with those hypnotic drum patterns, it is effortless to get completely lost in this album.

At various times throughout the nine tracks, there are feelings of melancholy, a depth which gives rise to a deeper experience with the music, while at other times, on tracks such as Heathen, the overriding feeling of weightlessness is joyous to feel. And that’s the thing here, the experience is everything. This isn’t about making statements, or showing how loudly the band can play instruments, or how fast for that matter.

To highlight one track specifically that you should check out is A Kaleidoscope. It is, without a doubt, a moment of exquisite ecstasy musically, the likes of which you will never come back from. Shear perfection, every second of it.

This is an album full of sonic ambience and luxurious moments, which should, warm you throughout, disregarding which music you even gravitate towards. The hypnotic drum passages, the genteel guitar work, and a vocal as rich and soothing as it is serene and ethereal, the culmination of these elements, makes for an album which will last a lifetime.

As a long-time fan, I knew this would be something special, and as a reviewer, I’ve tried to contextualise its magnificence, but my lord, I’m only scratching the surface really. This is the pinnacle of heart-warming music that will calm your soul, both inside, and out.

Label: Nostromo Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Lee Beamish