Esben and the Witch
A Desire for Light
When That Head Splits
Named after a Danish fairy tale, Berlin's Esben & the Witch craft fittingly eerie music that blends the delicate beauty of folk and shoegaze with the primal heaviness of metal.
While the trio's 2011 debut album Violet Cries felt indebted to goth and post-rock, the band soon expanded its horizons and cranked up its amps, adding a heft to 2014's Steve Albini-engineered A New Nature, that laid the foundations for 2016's ambitious suite Older Terrors, which balanced crushing riffs with Rachel Davies' lucid vocals.
Esben & the Witch formed in 2008, when guitarist/keyboardist Thomas Fisher moved to Brighton and began making music with keyboardist/drummer Daniel Copeman. After deciding to make the music they were working on available to the public, the pair drafted Rachel Davies, a longtime friend of Fisher's, to become their singer and bassist. The trio self-released its 2009 debut EP 33 and followed it with the single "Lucia, At the Precipice," which Too Pure released as a limited-edition 7" in 2010. That May, they contributed their song "Corridors," from 33, as the soundtrack to an installation by artist Karl Sadler as part of the London edition of the Creators Project. Later in 2010, Matador Records signed the group and released the Marching Song single that October; in December, the band appeared on the long list for the BBC's Sound of 2011. That January, their goth-tinged debut album, Violet Cries, arrived to critical acclaim and reached number 13 on the U.K. Indie Chart.
To write the songs for their second album, Esben & the Witch retreated to a cottage in East Sussex in 2012. Davies penned all of the lyrics, taking inspiration from the writing of Robert Frost and Vladimir Nabokov. The band recorded Wash the Sins Not Only the Face with co-producer Tom Morris and released the album in early 2013. That July, they appeared at the East End Film Festival to perform a live score for the film La Antena.
In 2014, Esben & the Witch left Matador to form their own label, Nostromo, and released a split EP with Thought Forms. The trio worked with engineer Steve Albini on September 2014's A New Nature, which captured the increasing heaviness of their sound and drew comparisons to Swans and PJ Harvey. A move to Berlin prompted further changes in the group's sound on Older Terrors, a set of four epic-length songs incorporating metal, prog, and post-rock released by Season of Mist in November 2016. Following 2017's concert album Live at Roadburn, Esben & the Witch returned in 2018 with Nowhere, which introduced punk-inspired riffs into the trio's sweeping sound. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi