LABEL: Independent
RELEASE: February 24th(?), 2023
AUTHOR: Paul Hutchings

SHADOWHISPERS album01. O Tempora O Mores
02. Black Cat (feat. Adam Denlinger)
03. Bridal Ballad
04. Alone
05. Dreamland
06. The Valley Of Unrest (feat. Adam Denlinger)
07. The Raven
08. A Dream Within A Dream
09. In Memoriam

14 years since their formation, the quintet known as SHADOWHISPERS release their latest record, Poe. The symphonic outfit whose music is tinged with gothic elements have taken a brave step and in 2022 crafted a concept album about Edgar Allan Poe’s life and works. It’s a confusing collection, part of the band’s Don’t Be Poe project, aimed at raising awareness about depression and to provide teachers with tools to help students. It’ll be distributed free in Luxembourg to those who are felt to need it.

This is all very laudable, but if the music isn’t any good then as a reviewer it all falls apart. Poe is a long album, just short of 60 minutes. It begins with the orchestral “O Tempora, O Mores”, a dramatic introduction which sets the tone for the album. Telling the listener about Poe’s death. Of medium pace with huge musical swells, it feels more of a cinematic score. And that’s my big issue with this album. And yes, it is my issue, for the band have crafted an incredibly complex piece of work which is full of twists and turns, changes in tempo and stellar performances.

And yet it leaves me completely cold. There’s so much orchestration, choreography and up-tempo passages that flicker between the crashing, spectacular, explosive and the ludicrously twee. At times it feels more like a Disney soundtrack. It’s occasionally cringeworthy in nature, and at times it simply grates. The overblown symphonics will either get you excited or reaching for the off switch. I’m afraid after three plays I was more of the latter. There’s not going to be middle ground here.

Harsh as this may seem, I have admiration for the band’s brave attempt and sheer grit and bravado in tackling this concept. There are parts which work well and there is no doubt that singer Diane Frisch possesses a fantastic voice with a wide range. Her performance is impressive throughout. Tracks like Spirits Of The Dead with its slightly darker feel work well, but they are countered by the likes of Black Cat”, one of two that feature Adam Denlinger (MaYaN), and whose lyrics are just awful. It’s also got some really crass, cartoon-like breaks which detract from the song. Then we have the soaring operatics of Dreamland, which at least is over in just over three minutes. The Valley Of Unrest sees Denlinger return… it’s not fantastic. His vocals don’t add anything to a song that drags and seems to be rather incohesive, more a collection of pieces that are drawn together. There are also tracks based on Poe’s poetry, such as Bridal Ballad”, which I found dragged on far too long.SHADOWHISPERS bwpicPoe is either an excellently curated collection of songs or utterly overblown guff. It’s really your choice, but if you don’t like the combination of soaring operatics, hard edged riffs and tympany percussion, then this is going to grate. There’s no doubt that the band are talented musicians and have poured everything into this release. The challenge is how to penetrate the overwhelming layers that litter this concept. I wish them all the best, but it isn’t going to get any more plays from me.