Artists: Monica Richards (Infrawarrior)
Genre: Goth Rock / Wave / Neo-Classicism
Release Date: 20th January 2012
Label: Danse Macabre
Usually there’s no need to introduce an artist like Monica Richards (at least to those, who have eyes and ears on the [resistant] Gothic / Dark Wave culture for the last couple of years!), but let me list some benchmarks for proving her proclaimed state. Mrs. Richards is an literally artistic all-rounder - poet, philosopher, painter and of course musician, famous for being the eponymous muse of the iconic American Goth formation FAITH AND THE MUSE and since 2006 head of her (solo) project INFRAWARRIOR. ‘Naiades’ is the second album carried out by herself and in the run-up to the release you could read on her homepage that this would gonna be one of her most ambitious doings so far, rounding up some prominent and relevant artists for creating a multi-layered piece of art, combining music an visuals (contributed by James O´Barr (The Crow) and Bernie Wrightson (Creepshow) for instance...) in a comprehensive opus.
Thematically we dive deep in the hazy waters of Greek mythology, what reveals us that the Naiades where nymphs, born by either by Zeus or Okeanos, performing the task of guarding and protecting all kinds of waters, i.e. wells, rivers, oceans and so on (what analogously overlaps with Monica Richards real life engagement in environment protection!). And that shaped picture of a sea can be taken as the Ariadne's thread throughout the whole album. Visually in the artwork, lyrically and especially in the music, what offers more than adequate atmospheric parallels. It is wide and deep, sometimes calm and sometimes stormy, it is threatening and soothing, hypnotic and animated with silence and chaos. But let’s hold the breath for diving in…
We start with a setting sun over a glassy sea… shimmering sounds from across the horizon… and from he deep the calling of the sirens… an evocation of senses. It’s not indictable to find references to the outreaching DEAD CAN DANCE in this opening eponymous track. Mrs. Richards voice feels like a foggy curtain above a mirroring surface, rising with the dawn, accompanied by glistening cymbals and low spheres of sound. It’s spiritual and sacral, something that pulls you down, deeply… ‘Pride’ breaks with that atmosphere. Suddenly it gets stormy and rough. Distorting guitars are whipping up the shore, flanked by rattling drums and pumping basses for forming a windy Goth / Death Rock shape, making flare memories of the (obvious) FAITHA ND THE MUSE or (for not leaving the path) CHRISTIAN DEATH and MEPHISTO WALTZ.
‘EndBegin’ starts as an quiet reflection, a growing light filled with strings and noisy splashes for reaching the top of an urgent orchestral arrangement, circling around a vocal mantra, that directs the undertow. ‘Armistice’ (already released on the ‘The strange Familiar’ EP, so like ‘The Mighty’ and the title track) is a mover again. A straight and stirring rhythm is driving sawing guitars, rest and rides on, covered by layers of vocals, which prove the skills of Mrs. Richards as singer. She’s able to sound threatening, seducing, angry and vulnerable - sometimes almost in unison, adding a variety of colours to the sound. ‘Alaric’ is a dark and gloomy pearl, with whispering vocals and whipping drums, creating an atmosphere of reflection and melancholy, contrastive to the following ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ with its pure percussion-based structure and the polyphonic chants, arousing memories of rituals and shamanic rites.
Midway we reach ‘The Mighty’, a narrative texture with spoken words (including the prophetic line “I am the muse”!) and the famous dulcimer, for gliding in an slightly oriental finish, resizing the theme of an ritual archetype. After ‘Nereides’, an atmospheric, instrumental interlude, ‘Lureinlay’ smoothes the waters again. Pillowed only on violins and a piano, the vocals do an impressive performance, creating an disarming emotional complexity, what makes this moment to one of the strongest of the whole album, besides or precisely because of its simplicity. ‘The strange Familiar’ surprises with its catchy atmosphere, turning out to be a sweet and hunting tune with an affable melodic line, what makes it sound a bit “strange” in the context of the other songs, but not less enjoyable. With ‘Tail of Two’ we once again invoke the rough side of ‘Naiades, bringing in noisy guitars and hard rocking drums, contrasting brilliantly with the choral-like vocals. And we leave the coastline with ‘We go on’, a felt intimacy, that splendidly combines fragility and energy by joining stripped acoustic verses with a highly charged chorus… a last clean chord… the sea calmed down again…
It took a while to realize the whole complexity Monica Richards has woven in those 12 songs, but once you have embraced the album, you feel the profundity and the artistic claim it was made with. She managed the balancing act of merging and blending a variety of styles and musical devices like Goth Rock, Neo-Classicism, world music and folklore in a marvellous way, creating a conclusive piece of art full of beauty and atmosphere, full of spell and mysticism... like the sea itself...
06. Scylla & Charybdis
07. The Mighty
10. The Strange Familiar
11. Tail Of Two
12. We Go On
Monica Richards - Composing, Vocals, Instruments
Total: 8.5 /10