Review: Charlotte Wessels – Tales From Six Feet Under Vol II
Napalm Records (October 7th, 2022)
Reviewer: Chris O’Connor
The ever-amazing Dutch chanteuse continues to reinvent herself musically with consummate ease and style, and with this second volume of wonderful songs, shows why she is surely destined to be a superstar. Like the equally enchanting Anneke Van Giersbergen, parting ways with her established band has given her the chance to fully express herself without the strictures of a band ‘unit’ – and this sophomore album is an absolute vindication of her decision to go it alone.
So, let’s get this clear, do NOT expect some kind of Delain or ‘Delain-Lite’ as was the case with the sister album to this from last year, this is an entirely new thing entirely. Boundaries be damned – Charlotte just does as she pleases with delicious ease, her sheer versatility alone allowing her to flex musically, and so her album flows from dreamy Trip-Pop right through to (and no I am not kidding) Death Metal, and no matter the ‘vibe’, it simply works, and is totally authentic to boot.
There are times when she does indeed revisit her Symphonic Metal ‘side’, both ‘Human To Ruin’ and ‘The Phantom Touch’ are prime examples, but there is SO much more to this album than that. You want proof? Easy! The opening gambit ‘Venus Rising’ is a glorious fusion of Pop mated to both Trip Hop and even Dubstep – and is simply jaw-dropping. ‘Against All Odds’ is beautifully fragile and atmospherically enchanting – with Charlotte being the beguiling waif, accompanied by gentle acoustic guitars and beautiful orchestration … it has the absolute ‘Wow Factor’.
‘A Million Lives’ somehow crosses lilting Pop with Modern Hard Rock – with fantastic effect, imagine Madonna jamming with Evanescence -and you. Won’t be a million miles away (bad play on words I know). ‘A Final Roadtrip’ has the quirkiness of classic Kate Bush, with a thoroughly modern twist – it shouldn’t work but simply does anyway. ‘Good Dog’ is a musical headf***, being part 21st century Dreampop, and part ferocious Death Metal riffing. Again, by rights, this should be a car-crash, but defies expectations by being dazzling instead – this is the kind of insanity that only Devin Townsend would make work usually.
‘Toxic’ sounds like it should be a theme tune for a James Bond film, again fusing gorgeous pop sensibilities to aggressive atmospherics – before crashing into a nightmare-esque Industrial miasma that could have been created by Hypocrisy/Pain mainman Peter Tägtgren, it’s that wonderfully twisted. ‘I Forget’ finds Charlotte again channelling her inner Kate Bush, set in a beautifully atmospheric backdrop, with luscious strings, and a solo that sounds like an oboe? It’s lovely stuff.
Album coda ‘I Forget’ somehow fuses Bjork, Kate Bush (again) and something I can’t quite put my finger on. Again, it’s a lavishly atmospheric song, lovingly orchestrated with a longing and mournful clarinet solo – again that works exquisitely, and is a devastatingly brave and beautiful way to close an album. Set your preconceptions aside, just allow this dazzling album to wash over you, and be eternally grateful to Charlotte Wessels for creating such a colossal album. Is it Rock? Is It Pop? Is it Metal? Does any of that really matter? ‘Tales From Six Feet Under’ is an absolutely essential album to have and treasure. You know what you need to do!