REVIEW: Esben and the Witch @ Hare and Hounds, Feb 7th

IMG_5400 - lr, amdWords by Damien Russell / Pics by Lucy Heath

On a dark and stormy night…

Okay, so it isn’t; but with a band called Esben and the Witch to see, you can’t help but feel it should be.

Straight from work I roll into the Hare and Hounds, and settle myself next to a man who had been listening to EATW “from the very start”.

We get talking, and his infectious laid-back enthusiasm leaves me looking forward to the start of the gig right along with him. And he seems typical of EATW fans in that respect; holding a deep seated enthusiasm that burns slowly, but very hot.

But that appears to be the only thing the fans here tonight have in common, with a mix of ages and personae patiently waiting for the show to commence.

First up are Skull TV, playing an Industrial style using samples and pre-recorded driving bass riffs; all behind some excellent live guitar and drum work.

Ex-Easter Island Head are next, a unique act, performing a well constructed wall of sound that fills every inch of space in the room.

IMG_5421 - lr, amdAnd then the moment we had all been waiting for. Esben and the Witch.

The crowd packs in close to the stage and waits silently, before our headliners come out, pause – as if to gauge the crowd, then launch into a set that reaches full intensity right from the start. And intense it is.

Unable to look away, the audience are hit with discord and harmony, beauty and despair, all at once. The band too, so locked in their performance, at times looking barely aware there was anything around them outside the music.

The set runs pretty much straight through, with an occasional pause for breath every third or fourth song. Small windows of opportunity for us to show our appreciation, which are received with a subdued “thanks” before the next song begins.IMG_5357 - lr, amd

We never get to hear ‘Deathwaltz’, EATW’s latest single from their new album, but after another uncharacteristic break we get the highlight, for me, of the show – ‘The Fall of Glorieta Mountain’.

A truly beautiful song with undertones of darkness, and a reason to buy ‘Wash The Sins Not Only The Face’ on its own.

The set ends on a similarly beautiful haunting note, and the band disappear into the shadows of backstage; leaving the audience with the feeling we’d seen something great.

And leaving me, in particular, wondering how long it can be before Esben and the Witch become a household name.

(Perhaps, on a dark and stormy night… – Ed)

‘Wash the Sins Not Only the Face’ was released on January 21st. For more on Esben and the Witch, visit http://www.esbenandthewitch.co.uk

For more gigs at the Hare & Hounds, visit http://hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk

This Is Tmrw, promoters of the above gig, can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/This-Is-Tmrw/182533748432925

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