Post metal outfit Empress, from Australia's Golden Coast (not to be confused with fellow post metal band Empress from Canada), weave elements of doom, black metal, indie and shoegaze into their 2020 album Wait 'til Night.
Chloe Cox's vocals range from soft and reminiscent of Beth Gibbons from Portishead and Chelsea Wolfe to lower almost post punk/gothic rock inspired vocals in the vein of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and also, on a couple of tracks, raspy, distraught-sounding harsh vocals. It may seem surprising that the latter are only used sparingly (only on the tracks 'Golden Orb' and ‘Void Share Void’) when the effect of switching from soft to harsh is so powerful on the opening track; but this means it has more impact when they are used as they are reserved for selected moments of the songs where the emotions are at their most fraught and heightened.
The instrumentation in the album is quite minimalistic and is mostly there to build atmosphere to suit the emotions evoked by the vocals rather than bringing much melody to the table itself. Similarly the drumming almost seems to match the pace of the vocals rather than the other way around, following their pattern of tension and release. Ominous and unsettling sound effects are also sometimes used, such as on 'Back to the Ground', which has an ever present howling wind sound in the background.
The lyrical themes often seem to revolve around relationship breakdown or tragic love mixed in with mystical/supernatural elements and abundant references to nature: 'Golden Orb' at times seems to be written from the perspective of a spider and 'Back to the Ground' appears to describe some sort of ritual sacrifice.
At just 8 tracks long it is only a short album by modern standards but it doesn't feel too short, if anything the last 3 songs seem to blend into one another a little too much and could perhaps use a change of pace. Overall, Wait 'til Night is a captivating and emotively performed excursion into an ominous and haunting world of bleak and muddy forest floors, dead flowers and burnt sage. An atmospheric audio companion for winter 2020.
Recommended for fans of: Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle, Chelsea Wolfe, Myrkur, Darkher, Frayle