Feather And Fate
I have to say, this album came as something of a letdown for me. Partly it’s my own damn fault. Lisa and Eric Hammer’s previous band, Requiem In White, has fascinated me for years with its gut-wrenching combination of roaring guitars and soaring operatic vocals; the group’s one album, Of the Want Infinite, took me years to find, but was well worth the wait.
The Hammers’ new project, Mors Syphilitica, is quite different; Feather And Fate is their third full-length album in this vein. Eric still plays guitars and bass here — in fact, he plays every single instrument on the album, including synths, mandolin, and what sounds like a banjo (on one track) — but in a much more mellow tone. Lisa also still handles the vocals, and sometimes her beautiful voice soars, but more often it’s rather subdued. In fact, on several tracks, the sound is way too mellow and subdued, sliding into a flaccid and uninteresting ’80s-era goth synth-pop, as on the opening “Hues Of Longing” or “Nostalgia’s Sea.” Eric also sometimes locks the music into a groove too quickly and stays there too long, as on “Fountain Of Tears,” with its endlessly repeated lilting guitar licks.
But Feather And Fate also has several great songs. The best set up a fascinating dichotomy between dark, unsettling, and heavy guitar, bass, and drums versus Lisa’s lovely, pure, operatic voice, as on “The Chains of Reason,” which feels like a losing battle you’re fighting within yourself, head against heart. “My Virgin Widows” has an intriguing Indian feel in the drums and percussion, which kick out extremely danceable rhythms, against which Lisa delivers the lyrics in breathless fashion. And “A Fever Dream” pairs liquid guitars with Middle Eastern drums and trance-like vocals, painting visions of tiny figures writhing in the smoke and dancing in the flame from a guttering candle, twirling faster and faster as the track goes on until finally the music and voice fade away gently into silence.