Music Reviews

Shinjuku Thief

The Witch Haven

Dorobo

As night falls upon the land, the people huddle together before their sputtering fires, trying hard not to listen to the sounds outside their huts – the sudden rushings of wind torn by leathery wings, the distant drums and bugle calls, the sibilant whispers, the wails of infants and damned souls. Even the priest dare not stray past his threshold, clutching his rosary tight and repeating the Hail Mary louder and louder as the bonfire burns hotter in the forest and the dancers circling it caper ever more wildly, casting long, leering shadows across the churchyard. Hunting dogs bay at quarry they cannot see, only to fall suddenly, heavily silent. This black sabbath night the dead walk, witches fly, and the Father of Lies returns to claim what is rightfully his.

Welcome to The Witch Haven, the third installment in Shinjuku Thief’s masterful acoustic evocation of the Malleus Maleficarum, the infamous guidebook used by witch hunters during the time of the Inquisition. Like its predecessors, The Witch Hammer and The Witch Hunter, The Witch Haven paints a gloriously dark symphonic portrait of horror and madness, terror and stark beauty. Darrin Verhagen, the artist behind Shinjuku Thief, makes part of his living making music for movies, so it’s perhaps not surprising that The Witch Haven has a very cinematic feel, brooding and menacing, with dense and detailed soundscapes so rich you can almost reach out and touch them–or be consumed by them. Filled with synths and strings, throbbing drums and crystalline bells, male and female voices chanting and whispering, singing and screaming, The Witch Haven transports you into a nightmare realm as lovely as it is terrifying.

From the gypsy violin, distant tolling bells, and oppressive synths of “Waking At Dusk,” to “The Spores of Death,” which float down quiet and ominous, then explode in hellish orange clouds that blaze across the soot-stained horizon, and from the lovely yet utterly unearthly voice of “The White Lady” to the military drums of “Sign of the Black Eagle” and the gently strummed guitar, low synth, and happy folkdance tunes of “An Event Near the Commons at Dusk,” soon eclipsed by the roars of savage demons stalking the land and thunder rolling across the sky, The Witch Haven escorts you to the brink of the abyss, then gives you a gentle push. Sweet, tormented dreams.

Dorobo, http://werple.net.au/~dorobo/ • Projekt Records: http://www.projekt.com


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