The music business has become a dangerous place for a band. The major labels can provide a valuable financial lifeline to an artist when times are good, but if album sales aren't where they are expected to be, the plug can be pulled mighty quick. This was the case with the London based group The Crimea, who found themselves being dropped after their debut didn't sell like gangbusters, decided to skip the whole record label part of their lives and are self-releasing their sophomore album, Secrets Of The Witching Hour. Oh yeah, and they are offering it up for free as an online download as well. Planning on making their money on touring and merch rather than album sales, The Crimea are entering some pretty uncharted waters when it comes to paying the bills, but with an album that is as strong as this one, it just might work.
Witching Hour starts things off with the moody sound of distant horns, setting a foggy tone that is slowly filled with some spoken word (apparently performed by Regina Spektor), which is abruptly ended when the rolling guitars kick in on "All Conquering." As we've come to expect from The Crimea, the song is huge, filled with washes of reverb-coated guitar and just enough slick production to put a nice sheen on the sound. A few seconds of strings segue us into "The 48A Waiting Steps." Although this one is a bit less moody, the slightly disco-flavored drums and lighter instrumentation don't change the vibe much at all, but would you really expect a happy pop track from The Crimea? I didn't think so.
"Man" has one of the more memorable melodies on Witching Hour, sounding like a recent effort from Manic Street Preachers but with Davey Macmanus' scratchy vocals. This marks one of the most accessible moments on the album, so if you happen to be new to the band, consider this a possible starting point. Another album standout is the upbeat "Light Brigade," filled with moments of lush orchestration as the song builds up to volcanic eruption of stomping drums, topped off with a single trumpet. The cinematic moments such as this are what make this a great listen.
For their sophomore album, The Crimea have offered up quite a great collection of songs. For a self-produced and self-mixed effort, these lads have done a mighty exceptional job. After listening to the whole record a few times, the sheer scope of the material is at times overwhelming. Spending time recording in London, Norfolk and Latvia definitely rubbed off on the sound of Secrets Of The Witching Hour, which you can hear for yourself via the downloads below.
Secrets Of The Witching Hour - MP3s
01. "All Conquering"
02. "The 48A Waiting Steps"
03. "Raining Planets"
05. "Bombay Sapphire Coma"
06. "Don't Close Your Eyes On Me"
07. "Loop A Loop"
08. "Light Brigade"
09. "Several Thousand Years Of Talking Nonsense"
10. "Requiem Aeternum"