This Promise & The Monster article was written by Tim Burden, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Fraisia Dunn.
Promise & The Monster, whose real name is Billie Lindahl, has come a long way since her 2007 debut ‘Transparent Knives’, on which it was rare to hear her singing accompanied by anything more than a single guitar and the occasional ‘aahs’ of a backing singer. The 2012 effort ‘Red Tide’ showed a slight evolution in complexity, but on this new release ‘Feed The Fire’ Lindahl has abandoned any pretense of subtlety and fully embraced the gothic melodrama hinted at in her previous work.
The opening title track is a perfect indicator of what the album is all about. It slowly builds in intensity as layers of strings, chimes and backing vocals swirl beneath Lindahl’s hypnotising childlike delivery of unsettling lines such as “I’m one of the horses you shoot”. Considering the amount going on it comes as a surprise that ‘Feed The Fire’ is actually one of the more reserved tracks on the album. More remarkable is the lead release ‘Time Of The Season’, whose pounding drums and twanging guitars create a soundscape that wouldn’t be out of place in a Spaghetti Western, something which can also be said of the mariachi trumpets at the climax of ‘Machines’. The strongest track on ‘Feed The Fire’, however, is the beautiful ‘Apartments Song’. It is hypnotic and tender; the vocals sit perfectly on top of a bed of far-away drums, swooping melancholy strings and mellow piano.
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Unfortunately there are parts of the album which are pretty forgettable. For better or worse, the songs are not built around specific hooks and melodies but around overall atmospheres. When this works the results are excellent but when it doesn’t it makes for a bit of a mess as in the relatively structureless ‘The Weight Of It All’. The album’s cinematic pretensions also get to be a bit overwhelming at times, no more so than on the instrumental ‘Julingvallen’ which basically sounds like elvish funeral music.
Despite these flaws the low points on ‘Feed The Fire’ are made up for by its high points. The overall sound is near to what the world has, whether rightly or wrongly, come to expect from many Scandinavian acts (eerie elf-like vocals, unsettling fairy-tale-esque songs etc.), but this is in no way a criticism as Lindahl does it so well, weaving unsettling imagery, beautiful harmonies and atmospheric instrumentation together with ease. ‘Feed The Fire’ is music to make you feel like you’re being chased by wolves through a snow-covered Swedish forest. If that’s what you’re after you’ll struggle to find better than Promise & The Monster.
‘Feed The Fire’ is out now via Bella Union.