A.A. Williams unleashes another behemoth of an album.
Release Date: 7th October 2022
Label: Bella Union
Format: digital / CD / vinyl (coloured option)
“Traditionally, your second album is the worry; where there’s the weight of expectation,” A.A. Williams says. Ah yes, the famously difficult second album… On the other hand, she may also cite the time, the confidence and the conviction gained by her experiences as factors which have fuelled As The Moon Rests. When she calls her new work “Forever Blue times ten!” She’s not wrong.
Her Songs From Isolation might have given a glimpse into the fragile arrangements although as we’ve probably mentioned once or twice before, the Forever Blue album from 2020 was a towering epic and a favourite album from the period. Yet that aforementioned weight of expectation looms large. As The Moon Rests continues the journey, offering both heavier and softer, adding more texture and weight and a string ensemble and, oh my, it’s another A. A. Williams work that’s going to cause ructions.
There’s no hanging about either as any anticipation of slow brood and build takes a back seat as Hollow Heart impacts within a matter of seconds. “Take this hollow heart of mine and fill it up with words I have heard a thousand times,” might wound like a dagger to the heart but the accompanying crescendo brings a comfort lacking in the desolation of the lyric. Shrill Post Rock swells dominate the monolith of Evaporate as the discipline of the controlled tempos and dark sustained chords could easily see these songs shoehorned into the Doom Metal and Dark Gothic categories. There’s almost an expectancy that Ozzy is about to sing about the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end. Not for the only time does the same thought occur as we become familiar with As The Moon Rests.
Pristine follows a familiar path. Over a gently picked guitar line and a distant wash of ambience, the confessional “I have the scars and hide them well,” creeps through and the squeek of fingers on guitar strings displays a similar intimacy in the opening of Shallow Water that soon hits its cinematic stride. Again, individual lines and phrases float by – “Misery was only part of me” – emphasising the pain and anguish that’s hopefully soothed by the warmth and smoothness of the string arrangement.
The balance of crushing power with the contemplation of how she’s tried everything to sooth her soul is the key to the monstrous Murmurs. It’s an early contender for the highpoint of an outstanding set. And while we’re on the album highlights train of thought, For Nothing is a prime example of ‘hold your breath’, ‘here it comes’, in an ‘is it? will it, won’t it?’ tease. The sombre mood bristles with tension. The haunting ambience hangs ominously and frankly the relief that crashes in after three and a half minutes is an explosive release. In concert, from the darkness, the lights blaze and blind and the fists are pumping. Darkness, decay and the weight of mistakes is accompanied by massive searing guitar chords where the sustain is left to be carried into the ether. Alone In The Deep perhaps the most glorious rendering of the passion and the glory.
The tender tiptoeing that precedes the rushes of release in the crescendoes will be comforting to those who miss the much loved dynamics and emotional punch of Anathema. The constant is the presence of a languid vocal that ponders and muses while delivering lines that exhude an aching melancholy. The atmosphere for once held in the curtain closer Ruin where A.A. heads back into the shell and comfort of solo contemplation. However, As The Moon Rests is a strong team effort. Accompanying the string ensemble, A.A.’s own monumental guitar and keyboards are joined by co-producer (and husband) Thomas Williams on bass, Geoff Holroyde on drums and engineer Adrian Hall secreted in his London studio Clever Pup (as opposed to the MO for Forever Blue that saw the huge sound created in a two-bedroom flat. The size and scale of the musical presence they create is huge.
The heights gained on Forever Blue have been gently nudged upward several notches. Nothing short of epic and inspirational. Songs from a hollow heart? Never thought of love as mighty? Maybe, but the impact of As The Moon Rests is overwhelming.
Here’s The Echo from the album:
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