Reigns : The Widow Blades
This is one of those albums that, having bought the album on a whim, with no previous knowledge of the band, find that I had inadvertently stumbled upon a true gem. Although I have only owned it for a short period of time, I firmly believe this is one of the best indie/post-rock/alternative albums I’ve heard in years.
Despite being a huge proponent of this particular album, I must admit that I still know relatively little about the band or their past work. Most of their albums seem to be conceptually similar to their most current one, with themes of gloom, dread, and isolation recurrent. Also this album seems to veer closer to indie/post-rock, whereas their previous efforts apparently had either more of a ‘folk direction’ and some compositions which were much more electronic in nature (there are still many keyboards and synthetic elements to this album as well, but they are usually integrated more subtly in the songs). Which is why having “The Diagram” presented as one of the promotional songs is both appropriate and a little puzzling, given the fact that much of the album does not sound very similar to that song.
One of the greatest strengths of the album are the vocals. Mostly sung in a deadpan monotone, we are delivered darkly tragic narratives concerning the (possibly fictitious, in the grand tradition of great storytellers) tale of “Millicent Blades: a middle-aged widow who had disappeared during the blizzard of 1978, vanishing somewhere between the villages of Tup’s Fold and Tone Gulley. Nothing was found of her save a set of interrupted footprints and a pile of clothes – all turned inside out.” As frequently mentioned in other reviews, the lyrical content of the album is far from pleasant or happy, especially the ‘cure is worse than the disease’ metaphors found in Hybrium Sulphate and the ‘after the blackout’ morning after story of ‘I Will Burn For This’.
There have been a lot of favorable comparisons associated with this album, including Nick Cave (in my opinion especially Murder Ballads, given that it too featured winter imagery and themes of intoxication, confusion, and murder), Scott Walker, Bon Iver, and even (in my opinion) echoes of Ian Curtis and Robert Smith.
An album this awesome does not come around very often. Do yourself a favor and pick it up today.