- Jekyll and Hyde vocals that are both alluring and terrifying
When Stolen Babies released their first album There Be Squabbles Ahead, it was love at first listen. Metal with a dark cabaret vibe, all wrapped up in an Edward Gorey meets German Expressionism aesthetic. What more could anyone ask for? A second album, for one.
That second album finally arrived six years after their debut. There Be Squabbles Ahead certainly left some large shoes to fill, and I think it is safe to say that Naught filled those shoes quite comfortably. That isn’t to say that Naught is merely just a There Be Squabbles Ahead Part 2, though such a development wouldn’t have been unwelcome. It utilizes the aspects that defined Stolen Babies’ sound, while breaking new ground in the process.
One of the first things I noticed was how Naught exhibits a more densely woven sound than its predecessor’s generally more open sound space. This actually threw me off a little bit at first, and I was unsure as to how I felt about the new elements Stolen Babies brought to the table this time around. It took several listens to penetrate the sonic density and find the little gems locked within. For example, just listen to Don’t Know and let the layers of the darkly epic chorus wash over you, each repetition of which brings new elements into the mix. Ben Rico’s keyboards really created a perfect atmosphere, and not just on this song, but on the album as a whole.
While I found the album to lack the more straightforward catchiness of songs like Filistata (just listen to that opening melody), I nevertheless found each song getting stuck in my head for several days. The dark, yet more-lighthearted quirkiness of Squabbles has been replaced with more menacing undertones, or overtones–like the nightmare-inducing I Woke Up.
Rani Sharone’s groovy yet aggressive bass lines thankfully play a major role once again–perfectly accentuated with his twin brother Gil Sharone’s precision percussion. And it would certainly be remiss of me not to mention Dominique’s vocals. Her performance has a theatrical quality, ranging from playful to sultry to vitriolic to the shrieking of the damned–and everything in between.
As an aside, I was pleased to note the presence of ex-Sleepytime member Michael Mellender and violinist Meredith Yayanos of Faun Fables fame as guest musicians.
Stolen Babies has once again proven themselves a refreshing and progressive voice in the realm of metal and I have naught (*snort* *giggle* *snort*) but praise for their latest album. If you are feeling tired of the same ol’-same ol’, then I think you just might find Stolen Babies to be the breath of fresh air you are looking for.