Esben and the Witch: Hold Sacred (Nostromo) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, July 12th, 2024  

Esben and the Witch

Hold Sacred


Jun 27, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Rachel Davies, Thomas Fisher, and Daniel Copeman—collectively known as Esben and the Witch—have been together for over 14 years. During this time, their brooding, intelligent cinematic post-rock with gothic embellishments has always been a compelling and immersive experience. However, their latest offering, Hold Sacred, signals a significant shift for the band, as their sound is stripped of the icy sheets of guitars and the pounding dramatic percussion that often adorns their work. The majority of the album sees the band providing an atmospheric minimalist ambient backdrop to Rachel Davies’ remarkable voice. More often than not, it works in the sense that it offers a soothing, ‘safe space’ rather than one that sets the heart racing and blood pumping.

This is an album of introspection and reflection, successfully steering clear of the sort of insipid reflective that mewling bands like The xx were prone to indulge in. Davies’ voice glows and flickers like a distant light in the darkness, contributing to a solemn, almost spiritual tone as the songs ebb and flow. “In Ecstasy” is perhaps the album’s most propulsive moment, while “Silence 1801,” “True Mirror” and “Petals of Ash” are particularly affecting, proving that sometimes less is more. The album is held together and powered by Davies’ vocals, as she projects fragility, vulnerability, and strength. It’s her performance that elevates what could have been a rather one-paced album into a transformative experience brimming with raw emotion.

If you’re expecting theatrical flair and explosive riffs, Hold Sacred may not meet your expectations. However, it stands as a bold and beautiful artistic statement. It would be a loss if this album proved to be Esben and the Witch’s swan song rather than a moment for them to regroup, reset and evolve, as it’s evident that they still have much to offer. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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